OCEANS 8

Directed by Gary Ross

Starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett

Running Time 1 Hr, 50 Mins., PG-13

My Rating: B

It’s only human to expect this year’s women-led “Ocean’s” movie to set a new heist-comedy precedent. Enough years have passed to ensure its writer and director Gary Ross, avoids the mishaps that often undercut the breezy predecessors. And a movie featuring this expensive and lovable an ensemble seems primed for greatness. Yet “Ocean’s 8” is merely an efficient thrill machine as all the features making up the saga have been. It’s neither better nor worse than its forebearers, and is most in sync with “Ocean’s 11.” It would have been nice if it lived up to the anticipation. But it is playful and competently made. It makes for the sort of unworried blockbuster that feels just right for mid-June. It’s a glitzy antidote to all the time filling dreg Hollywood usually puts out for the first half of the year.

“Ocean’s 8” begins with liberation. Its chief heroine, the always smiling Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister to the George Clooney-portrayed protagonist of the other “Ocean’s” films, is freed from prison after serving five years. An intuitive grifter just like her brother, who is presumed dead, she’s looked at her time in the slammer not as means of rehabilitation but rather regeneration. Like her sibling, Debbie believes no thrill can compare to the one you find in the scope of planning, and then executing, an intricate heist. No other occupation, besides criminal strategizing, can fulfill her. So expectedly, little time passes between the time she steps out from the clink to the moment she starts her next criminal job.

To help her carry out the in-the-making heist, she enlists the help of her old partner, Lou (Blanchett); the hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna); the kooky has-been fashion designer Rose (Helena Bonham Carter); the limber pickpocketer Constance (Awkwafina); the profiteer Tammy (Sarah Paulson); and the low-level jewelry designer Amita (Mindy Kaling). All agree to whatever vague plans Debbie divulges early on, both because her rep’s good (save for that whole interlude in prison) and because the financial benefits are tempting.

When Debbie later reveals what she’s been preparing in exposition style, her confidence is palpable. The location of the heist will be the exclusive, high-security Met Gala event. The victim will be Daphne (hilarious Anne Hathaway), a spoiled actress. The prize will be priceless jewels to be worn by the latter at the party. The “in” will be provided by Rose, who fortuitously gets the actress to agree to have her design her clothing.

Everything in the film moves about evenly and coolly. Even when probable obstacles come out of the woodwork, we never have any doubts that these cunning ladies will get away with it. That’s part of the reason the “Ocean’s” movies have dazzled to begin with: audiences love to subversively see bad guys win.

In contrast to the majority, I’ve never been quite so taken with the “Ocean’s” movies. While enjoyable, the certainty that the criminals will get exactly what they want, with few hitches, is so overwhelming that urgency has consistently been lacking. “Ocean’s 8” is no different. Though we’re impressed by its execution and reliably thrilled by its offerings, the unbearable suspense that comes with skepticism is missing, therefore enforcing unintended weightlessness. But all the “Ocean’s” movies have suffered from this. Insubstantial as it may be, then, “8” is still terrific fun. These actresses are distinctive and have great chemistry, and their appeal is thankfully enough to carry the movie, which, ultimately, gets the job done. Even if the sneaking suspicion that it could have been better is hard to ignore.

A student at the University of Washington, Blake will major in Visual Communications or Journalism.  petersonreviews.com

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