Remakes are supposed to IMPROVE on the original.


Cliffnotes review:
Remakes are supposed to IMPROVE on the original.

This film goes to: 5
Rated (PG-13)
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia
Written by: George Clayton Johnson & Jack Golden Russell (1960 Story), Ted Griffen (2001 Screenplay)
116 minutes
Warner Bros.
Official site

Remember high school? There was always at least one kid trying desperately to be cool and falling far short of the mark. The Mike Damone character (the slimily ticket scalper played by Robert Romanus) in "Fast Times of Ridgemont High" comes to mind. Well, Steven Soderbergh has managed to find his high school roots and become that too-cool kid in the remake of "Ocean's Eleven".

Based on the premise of the 1960 Rat Pack film of the same name, the 2001 version features the new-school-cool of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and Andy Garcia among others. Most performances are phoned-in (Clooney does a very good Clooney as the title character Danny Ocean, for example) but at the very least, the new version sets itself apart from the original in two ways: the actors are all actually actors and they do not all appear to be battling hangovers in every take.

"Ocean's Eleven" is the story of the biggest heist in Vegas history. Freshly out of prison, Danny Ocean teams up with Dusty Ryan (Pitt) to knock over three of Vegas' largest casinos at one time. Coincidentally (or not so, it seems), all are owned by Terrence Benedict (Garcia) who is now dating Ocean's ex-wife Tess (Roberts) and conveniently, all utilize the same vault thus making one of the only interesting elements of the original (forming a team that could hit three separate casinos at one time) moot.

Suspension of disbelief is one of the chief goals in filmmaking and Soderbergh has done little to promote the success of this central tenant in "Ocean's Eleven". The set-up comes all too quickly. Team members are assembled, trained and ready to go in less than two weeks. Pitt's character has no less than three completely improbable costume changes in the final 5 minutes. That anyone would vie that desperately for Roberts' affection is simply beyond me (I may be one of a handful of people who feels that Benjamin Bratt had the right idea when dumping Julia). The film really lost me when Basher Tarr (played with a slightly annoying Cockney accent by Don Cheadle) switches gears and determines that a specialized explosive device is needed in order to even attempt the job. Fortunately one is easily found at the University of California and secured just in time for the hit (thanks to virtually catatonic security guards who simply watch as our team of thieves wander off with the rather large device).

The only character that displays even the most remote semblance of development is played convincingly (as much as I hate to say it) by Matt Damon. As pickpocket Linus Caldwell, Damon conveys well the feeling that his character is a little over his head and a lot unsure whether he wants to be in the position he has chosen. Genuine nervousness and youth are well crafted by Damon. If this isn't a sad endorsement for a film, I don't know what is.

The original "Ocean's Eleven" was certainly not a testament to fine filmmaking but at the very least had a trick ending that defied convention. Soderbergh uses an all-star cast and over-saturated, grainy film effects in his remake to hammer his cooler-than-thou point home but loses much in the Hollywoodized ending that robs what little impact the original offered. Sometimes, it seems, cool is merely insecurity lumped into a pretty package.

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Critter Critique: This week's review brought to you by Gavin.
Fatal Attraction:  Yet another example of Hollywood schlock served up in a double boiler. Though Fatal Attraction starts innocently enough, I was shocked and appalled to witness the on-screen atrocity put forth as entertainment in act three. Trust me, this one is not fit for man nor beast. Ginger Pants