Following the success of the much-beloved “Ocean’s” trilogy, rumors of an all-female reboot had persisted for years. Nearly every marketable female star had been attached, or at least rumored to be attached, to the project at one point or another. The long-awaited final product is an absolute mess, complete with gaping plot holes, and a completely flat story.
Sandra Bullock plays “Debbie Ocean,” a previously unmentioned sister of George Clooney’s “Danny Ocean” from the original franchise. Like Danny in “Ocean’s 11,” Debbie opens the movie on her way out of prison after a five year stint. It must have been a pretty soft five years, because Debbie’s make-up is perfect, and her beach waves are highlighted and bouncy. Bullock’s Ocean may be related to the charismatic Danny, but she doesn’t share any of his sparkle and swagger.
She soon links up with her pal, Lou, played by Cate Blanchett, who is busy running a lucrative scam diluting cheap vodka, which I thought is something only college bars did, but I guess it’s quite the racquet. Debbie wastes no time confiding in Lou that she has been brainstorming the perfect heist while in prison, and they need to assemble a crew to pull it off.
The subsequent characters who make up this dream crew that Debbie Ocean envisioned were introduced through a sequence so awkward and disjointed, it was almost cringe-worthy. Constance, played by rapper, Awkwafina, was the sleight of hand artist. It seemed like she was supposed to be funny, but they didn’t write any jokes for her. Just a couple awkward moments where she uses her skill to steal Debbie’s watch, and then asks for a free metro card. Mindy Kaling plays Amita, who works for her overbearing mother at a jewelry shop, and is a diamond expert, which is enough to qualify her as a criminal, apparently.
Rihanna plays “Nine Ball,” the computer whiz, and with such infrequent screen time she might have been the biggest waste of star power in the movie, though there was plenty of that to go around. Sarah Paulson represents the biggest waste of talent, as the former con turned house wife, Tammy, who gets involved with her old cohorts for one last thrilling job. Helena Bonham Carter plays Rose Weil, a socially awkward Irish fashion designer at the end of her career, with few prospects, and mounting debt. Anne Hathaway plays the mark, Daphne Kluger, with all the relish and energy of a person just selected for jury duty.
Once assembled, the crew is never able to establish the joyful camaraderie that the cast of the original “Ocean’s” movies had achieved. Bullock and Blanchett were clearly meant to be the Clooney and Pitt of the all ladies cast, but they have no chemistry, and their characters are incredibly dull. Paulson is the most appealing, but her effort is squandered in the midst of utter mediocrity. The heist itself was decently constructed, albeit nothing new. It contains layers and surprises, as it should, but doesn’t let the audience in on the fun planning stages. Instead, it over-budgets screen time on the glamor and opulence of the Met Gala, where the theft takes place.
The cast of “Ocean’s” was almost totally wasted. For Bullock, Blanchett, and even Hathaway, phoning in their roles was a fine choice for their career at this point. It would have been a much better time to see stars like Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, and Rihanna get a chance to showcase their ability to be sharp, witty, and fun. Helena Bonham Carter gave it her best effort, but the character she played was written so poorly, it is literally painful to watch her on screen.
The real problem though, is the screenplay. The dialogue is humorless, clunky and unnatural, the story moves at a snail’s pace, and many scenes seem totally unnecessary. Cameos are shoehorned into places they hardly belong, and characters change their allegiances for no reason whatsoever, other than to make sense of an overly complicated plot.
The script was written by Director, Gary Ross, and newcomer, Olivia Milch, who happens to be the daughter of David Milch (creator of “NYPD Blue” and “Deadwood”). Ross has been around for a long time, and is known for penning the screenplays for “Pleasantville” and “The Hunger Games.” Milch holds only a handful of credits, most notably for all female stoner dramady, “Dude,” which has received mixed reviews.
The movie set was rumored to be plagued with creative problems. A Matt Damon cameo was planned, with the actor even seen on set, but he did not appear in the final movie. Damien Lewis was also announced as part of the cast early on, and filmed parts on location in New York City, but he did not appear in the final movie. Heavy editing seemed apparent, and full character cuts could explain some of the baffling lengths of the scenes.
There is almost nothing redeemable about “Ocean’s 8.” It’s a shame these actresses got such a bad script, because I think they could have made a fun movie.