[Screen It]


(2018) (Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett) (PG-13)

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Drama: A recently paroled woman returns to her criminal ways as she puts together a team of women to steal a $150 million diamond necklace.
Debbie Ocean (SANDRA BULLOCK), sister to infamous criminal Danny Ocean, has just been paroled from prison after serving more than five years following being framed by her partner in crime, art dealer Claude Becker (RICHARD ARMITAGE). Eager to return to that lifestyle and having spent half a decade concocting her next heist, Debbie starts assembling her team.

There's her original partner in crime, Lou (CATE BLANCHETT); jeweler Amita (MINDY KALING); fashion designer Rose Weil (HELENA BONHAM CARTER); hacker Nine Ball (RIHANNA); pickpocket Constance (AWKWAFINA); and fence Tammy (SARAH PAULSON).

Their target is a diamond necklace that's been in Cartier's vault for fifty years and is valued at $150 million, and they plan on stealing it at the Met Gala while it's around the neck of socialite actress Daphne Kluger (ANNE HATHAWAY). With each of the women utilizing their unique skills, they begin work on their complicated plan that involves lots of pieces falling into place, all of which also includes Debbie wanting to get revenge on Claude who's been selected as Daphne's date for the event.

And if they're successful, they'll have to worry about steely insurance inspector John Frazier (JAMES CORDEN) looking for holes in their carefully constructed plan and alibis.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
Unless one is a criminal themselves or are related to or are close friends of such a person, most people don't like criminals in real life. Yet, for reasons probably best left to psychologists and sociologists, many of those same people like watching criminal characters in movies. And not always in a "let's watch them get busted" fashion, but rather rooting for their success.

In the old days, that was mostly limited to noble thieves like Robin Hood who acted in criminal ways for a greater common good rather than their own individual gain. Nowadays, audiences like if not outright root for bad guys like mobsters, while others enjoy viewing criminal behavior if the bad guy or guys aren't as villainous as those they're robbing, or if said criminal activity takes place in a comedy or crime caper sort of flick.

All of which explains the appeal of movies like "Ocean's Eleven" both in the Sinatra and Clooney led versions. The latter was so popular that it led to two direct sequels that, natch, weren't as good as the original remake. And now it's led to a spinoff of sorts where the sibling to Clooney's Danny Ocean has grabbed the baton and continues the family tradition in "Ocean's 8."

The twist here is that all of the criminals attempting to pull off the heist are ladies, a decision explained by Debbie (Sandra Bullock) as the fact that men always get noticed and women can thus fly under the spotlight radar and thus better execute their heist with as little attention as possible. Of course, the fact that they're all attractive and end up dressed to the nines in what's essentially a fashion orgy on screen doesn't help such matters.

But writer/director Gary Ross (taking the reins from Steven Soderbergh -- who now settles into the producer's chair -- and aping much of his predecessor's slick directorial style) and co-writer Olivia Milch cover that by having the heist take place during New York's swanky, look at me event, the Met Gala.

The target in play is a $150 million Cartier diamond necklace that's resided in a vault for half a century. And once Debbie gets paroled from prison - starting off the film just like Clooney's first foray into the series - she immediately sets out to put together a crackerjack, all ladies team they can make the seemingly impossible happen.

That starts with her old gal pal and original partner in crime played by Cate Blanchett and they then proceed to add a computer hacker (Rihanna); a fashion designer (Helena Bonham Carter); a jeweler (Mindy Kaling); a pickpocket (Awkwafina); and a housewife who hasn't given up her fencing ways (Sarah Paulson). If you're counting, that makes seven, and so you may wonder who's number eight.

Well, when I first saw the trailer for the film, I assumed the socialite wearing the diamonds (a fun Anne Hathaway) was the team's mark and that the necklace was hers to steal, you know, like a spin on Clooney's team nabbing money from Andy Garcia's casino.

Instead, she's just the necessary vessel for the jewels, although to be fair, that changes a bit as the scheme plays out. But that leaves Richard Armitage playing the only character who gets his comeuppance (as he earlier framed Bullock's character for criminal activity -- resulting in her prison stint).

While that provides some motivation above and beyond the general score, it also robs the flick of some much needed conflict and obstacles for the ladies. Other than a moment here or there, I never felt as if they were going to have any issues pulling off the heist. Thus, it's not as much fun, entertaining or engaging when there doesn't seem to be much risk or doubt.

Perhaps sensing that, the storytellers introduce an insurance agent (James Corden) who arrives after the theft and starts nosing and poking around. At least that creates a little tension, but it might be a case of too little and too late for some viewers.

Not helping matters, most of the female characters haven't been given much depth, so beyond them providing the specialized skill needed for the job, there isn't a great deal there (a complaint that could also be leveled against the Clooney films, although it feels a bit more evident here).

All of that said, there's still a decent amount of enjoyment to be found from what's offered up and yes, rooting for the criminals to succeed. I just wish the heist was more complicated and difficult and that the ladies had a bit more with which to work. Maybe that will happen in "Ocean's 19" or some derivation thereof if they combine all or part of the original cast with this one. Until then, "Ocean's 8" ends up with a 5.5 out of 10 score.

Reviewed June 4, 2018 / Posted June 8, 2018

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