The latest addition to the ‘Ocean’s’ film franchise shows that adding a massive dose of estrogen to an established formula can ultimately produce a disengaged crime caper.
Rather than rebooting with a gender swap a la 2016’s ‘Ghostbusters’, this new spinoff/sequel acknowledges the original films and includes them in its cinematic world. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is Danny Ocean’s incarcerated sister. We first meet her at her parole hearing where she turns on the waterworks and gets a prison release. After scamming her way into a new wardrobe and hotel room, she gets in touch with her old friend Lou (Cate Blanchett). Debbie has spent the last five years behind bars coming up with one major heist that is going to make them both very wealthy women. First they need to assemble a team of criminals, and then the riches will follow.
They recruit Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Awkwafina, and Sarah Paulson to all help with their massive plot to steal jewelry from the most glamourous event of the year: the Met Gala. Their mark is a Cartier necklace that is typically stored in an underground vault. It will be released for the gala to be worn by the current cinematic “It” girl, Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway).
As expected, their heist is multilevel, overly complicated, and borderline genius. The Ocean apple does not fall far from the tree, and Debbie gives her brother Danny quite the competition in being the more scheming sibling. The whole thing feels like a well-choreographed ballet, as it should.
It’s worth giving ‘Ocean’s 8’ credit for embracing the gender of its lead actresses, rather than ignoring the strengths they bring. By operating in a typically female sphere of fashion and jewelry, our gang capitalizes on its assets and knowledge base. These women pull off a heist in a way that men could not, and do so with confidence and ease not always found in female crime capers.
Though the heist itself is inspired, the characters overall lack the chemistry that made the previous ‘Ocean’s’ films so successful. The witty banter and playful word jousting are nowhere to be found. Instead, the film is solely carried by its heist plot. Though the Blanchett and Bullock characters have the closest bond, and their ease with one another is a delight, it doesn’t rise to the expectations put forth by the preceding films or compensate for the rest of the flat cast. Hathaway also shines as the absentminded and narcissistic pawn of an actress, but her performance isn’t enough to save the movie from the doldrums of being simply yet another competent crime film.
Overall, ‘Ocean’s 8’ does a good job of exploiting the strengths of women and shows the audience the beauty of a glamorous robbery that goes perfectly right. But its ultimate lack of interesting characters makes it lifeless and forgettable as soon as it’s over.