There’s something to be said for novelty, for curiosity. If you add a twist to a familiar theme, you’ve got my attention. Such was the formula of Ocean’s 8, a spinoff of the popular Ocean’s Eleven franchise that spawned two sequels. This time around it’s Danny Ocean’s sister Deborah (Sandra Bullock, Our Brand Is Crisis) who has taken up the mantle. Recently paroled, Deborah begins cooking up her next caper soon after doing a 5-year stretch. She connects with old pal Lou (Cate Blanchett, Thor: Ragnarok), and the two hatch a plan to rob the Met Gala.
I’m usually skeptical of reboots and updated versions of movie franchises. For example, I was ambivalent about the Ghostbusters reboot and I generally dislike the idea of making the “Black” or “female” version of popular movies. However, I’m a fan like anyone else, and star power is a legitimate draw. An all-star lineup attracts audiences, and that is the universal appeal of Ocean’s 8. Somehow my snobby cinematic preferences went out the window when I heard that Cate Blanchett and Rihanna were going to be in the all-girl interpretation of Ocean’s Eleven, itself a reboot of the 1960 Rat Pack classic.
Writer/director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) has created a fun, slick caper that doesn’t quite live up to Steven Soderbergh’s original Ocean’s Eleven, but more than holds its own against Ocean’s 12 and 13. Deb and Lou assemble a team whose mission is to swipe a diamond Cartier necklace from starlet Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway, Alice Through the Looking Glass), who will be wearing the jewelry worth 150 million dollars to the Met Ball. Through an intricate plan involving surveillance, reconnaissance, and good old-fashioned luck, the hodgepodge team of bandits set the stage to pull off the brazen heist.
Rihanna (Annie) features prominently as Nine Ball, hacker extraordinaire and overall badass, much like the singer herself. Rounding out the cast are Sarah Paulson (The Post) as Tammy, Mindy Kaling (A Wrinkle in Time) as Amita, high-strung and anxious to get out from under her mother’s thumb, and Awkwafina as a sticky-fingered hipster. The esteemed Helena Bonham Carter (Alice Through the Looking Glass) appears as fashion designer Rose Weil, tasked with dressing Daphne for the ball and rigging the necklace. The audacious caper requires extraordinary skill and luck, and of course it’s all farfetched, but that’s not the point!
Ross lacks the finesse of the aforementioned Soderbergh, so the film wasn’t as slick and polished as the other “Ocean’s” movies. Nevertheless, there were tonal similarities, and the cast’s chemistry and camaraderie made the movie as fun to watch as it probably was to film. The movie’s flaws weren’t significant, as I expect some suspension of disbelief and understand that any retread inherently lacks originality. Ross allowed the cast to shine, even if their considerable talents may not have been particularly tested by the material here. Rihanna was surprisingly effective, and Paulson and Hathaway were particularly endearing. This was perfect summer fare.