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‘Ocean’s 8’ reenergizes the series with plenty of girl power

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Sandra Bullock returns to the screen for the first time in almost three years for the rebooted crime caper Oceans 8, a firecracker sure to provide the requisite guilt-free summer escapism that audiences are looking for this time of year. Jam packed with no less than (spoiler) eight power house female actresses, the film has more talent than you can shake an Academy Award at.

Bullock plays the sister of Danny Ocean, the role that George Clooney headlined during the original Ocean’s films. After being released from a five-year stint in jail, Debbie doesn’t waste a second of time and gets right back to business. “It’s what I’m good at,” she justifies, while enlisting the help of her old partner, Lou (Cate Blanchett).Photo: NME.com

And what exactly is the plan? To execute one of the biggest jewelry heists ever by cribbing a five-pound diamond necklace off the neck of a Hollywood actress (Anne Hathaway) while she dons it at the annual Met Gala. The diamond necklace known as the Toussaint has been buried in a vault for over fifty years, and values at over a hundred million dollars.

Pulling off such an intricate job will have its challenges, so naturally, Debbie enlists the help of a few additional players. This includes a washed up fashion designer (Helena Bonham Carter), a housewife who peddles hot goods (Sarah Paulson), an expert jeweler (Mindy Kaling) and a hacker (stunt casting via Rihanna). Together, they map out the step by step plan to infiltrate the Met Gala and swap the highly guarded diamond with a fake counterpart.

Apart from the obvious gender reversal, Oceans 8 is a different beast than Oceans 11. Although the two share a few trademark similarities, the new film is a shiny loud summer blockbuster. Oceans 11 had the star power but it still came off a smaller film, no doubt due to the direction of Steven Soderbergh, who tends to scale down his material. There’s none of that on display here. Director Gary Ross’ motto is go big or go home and that holds true—whether he’s turning the volume up on the broad comedy, or lovingly soaking up all the glitz during the gorgeous Met Gala sequence. With this approach, Ross noticeably sacrifices dramatic depth and characters that resonate below surface level, but with the abundant charm of his cast, it’s still fun to watch.

As they (never) say “Eight’s a Crowd,” and thus a select few players here chew up the scenery more than the rest. At 53, Bullock has rarely looked more confident. She struts out of jail like it’s a runway walk at New York Fashion Week. She steals high end department store goods looking like a boss. She even looks hot when threatening to shank snitch ex-boyfriends with a rusty knife.

Supporting wise, it goes without saying the Helena Bonham Carter remains a magnetic screen presence. Playing a failed fashion designer in debt to the IRS, Carter takes full advantage of her character’s off the wall mannerisms and overall quirkiness. The real surprise here though is Anne Hathaway, who plays a shallow Hollywood actress. A less compelling performer could have delivered it one note, but Hathaway refuses to phone it in, showcasing her comedienne skills expertly. Welcome back to mainstream comedy, Anne. We’ve missed you. Elsewhere, Cate Blanchett and Paulson are consistent as usual.

In the end, Oceans 8 succeeds as solid summer entertainment—if slightly missing the opportunity to carry a little more substance given the magnitude of talent on display. But that’s ok; there’s more than enough time to improve on these flaws before Oceans 9 arrives.

Note to Kim Kardashian: Keep your publicist on alert as there may be a spot available.

 

 

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com

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Photo: NME.com