Ocean’s Thirteen (Warner Bros., PG-13)

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Now we have Ocean's Thirteen, and it returns Danny Ocean (George Clooney), Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and pals to Vegas, where their mentor Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) has just been unceremoniously screwed out of his part ownership in a luxurious new hotel-casino on the Strip. The baddie, a distinguished addition to the cast, is Al Pacino, clearly relishing his role as Las Vegas kingpin Willie Bank (the casino itself is merely called "The Bank"). 

Watching appealing actors having fun is a perfectly valid reason to enjoy a movie, even if other elements aren't that memorable. The Ocean's trilogy (Ocean's Eleven was released in 2001, Ocean's Twelve in 2004) embodies this notion perfectly-that first film was a rousing popcorn entertainment whose stars could barely contain their giddiness at making a high-energy caper film for esteemed director Steven Soderbergh. It had its flaws, but the crowds loved it. The sequel seemed to lose something, maybe by switching its location from the Vegas casinos to a European milieu not as accessible, or perhaps trying too hard to repeat the snappy banter and high jinks of its predecessor. Now we have Ocean's Thirteen, and it returns Danny Ocean (George Clooney), Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and pals to Vegas, where their mentor Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) has just been unceremoniously screwed out of his part ownership in a luxurious new hotel-casino on the Strip. The baddie, a distinguished addition to the cast, is Al Pacino, clearly relishing his role as Las Vegas kingpin Willie Bank (the casino itself is merely called "The Bank"). The setup is just the kind of revenge scenario suited to Ocean's temperament, and he snaps into action. Recruiting virtually the same gang as in past films (Matt Damon and Carl Reiner in dual roles, Bernie Mac as Frank Catton, Casey Affleck and Scott Caan as Virgil and Turk Malloy, respectively-but no Julia Roberts this time out), Ocean wants to sabotage Bank's opening-day festivities at the casino, rob him blind, and get Tishkoff the just desserts he deserves. Obstacles? Aw, they're just part of the game for this crazy crew. Sure, you gotta simulate an earthquake at precisely the right time using a gigantic underground drill, rig a bunch of slot machines and card shufflers, and dupe Bank into thinking the fawning gentleman with the toupee (Reiner) is the hotel evaluator, while the real dude in charge of assigning the much-desired "Five Diamond Award" (David Paymer) is made miserable in various inventive ways. And Bank's dour but attractive assistant (Ellen Barkin) has to be distracted, also-a job that falls to one of Damon's characters. Barkin, by the way, is peachy in her small role, and there's also a nice turn by British actor Eddie Izzard.

So…is it fun? Yeah, mostly. Soderbergh lets his cast do their stylish and often quirky thing, and during some of the film's frequent slower stretches, the jazzy, omnipresent score by David Holmes helps to pull things along effectively. It gets confusing sometimes trying to keep the plot details straight, and for a caper film, there aren't many real surprises. What you end up appreciating is the gleeful camaraderie between the stars. Not many moviegoers are gonna complain about extended segments involving Pitt and Clooney, who look pretty darn dashing. Clooney in particular has acquired a brand of familiarity by now that keeps viewers primed all the way; he's a genuine movie star, and these films wouldn't work nearly as well without him. And the great Pacino, who has occasionally been guilty of scenery munching in roles of this type, is sharp as a self-centered, heartless mobster. There's no real faulting the actors…it's just that the overall vibe here seems a bit shallow. In truth, this film is an expensive trifle, and while that's true of many movies these days, few have the cumulative pedigree of this cast and director. In a way, the film itself is like a slot machine: lots of sounds and flashy colors, long stretches of nothing happening, and an occasional exciting payoff. But hey, that's show biz. If glitzy visuals and handsome movie stars are what you like, Ocean's Thirteen delivers that in spades (and diamonds!). But for those seeking a more captivating cinematic voyage, well, this Ocean trip may cause a little seasickness. | Kevin Renick

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