By Kyle | June 7, 2007
Kyle Smith review of “Ocean’s Thirteen” or “Ocean’s 13”
Running time: 122 minutes
Rated PG-13 (mild sensuality)
Opening June 8
The “Ocean’s” series started out popping like the Bellagio. With “Ocean’s Thirteen” it has gone as dead as Circus Circus. On a Tuesday afternoon. During a Shriners convention. “You’ve gone nose deaf” is one of many almost-clever lines in its script. The meaning is, “You stink,” but it’s the movie that needs a can of Glade.
This time the lovable scoundrels are out not to make a fortune but to do a favor for a friend: Reuben, the Elliott Gould character, who has suffered a heart attack after being double-crossed by a new casino owner in town (Al Pacino). Pacino’s Willy Bank—“break the Bank” is typical of the movie’s attempts at wit—reneged on a loan agreement with Reuben. That a massively successful hotel owner would be in any kind of business with a busted alter kocker in glasses the size of the windshield on a PT Cruiser is the first of the movie’s many wheezy implausibilities.
There are some fun bits scattered here and there, a few interesting glimpses of the machinery of the casino, and a lot of nice suits. But after a short while the movie starts to seem like work. After an hour I felt like a lady in sky-blue stretchy pants praying for salvation from the one-armed idiot detector she’s feeding with Susan B. Anthonys.
Would a gang of thieves really put their necks on the line and shell out first thousands, then millions, with no intention of profiting from the scam, merely to avenge an old-fart friend? How is cleaning out Willy Bank going to help a guy with a heart problem anyway? Reuben needs Dr. Doug Ross, not Danny Ocean.
The scam is elaborate to the point of testing your patience–the boys are trying to simultaneously fix every kind of game in the casino by loading the dice at the factory where they’re made in Mexico, planting their own dealers, using a gadget to make the roulette wheel stop on the right number and even by distracting Bank’s aide de camp Ellen Barkin (“his right-hand man. Only she’s a woman”) with some kind of magic cologne worn by the Matt Damon figure. All that would be okay if there were fun to be had along the way, but the jokes are as thin as Nicole Richie. The gags include Pacino being patted on the rump by Carl Reiner, Damon putting on a big fake nose, naming characters “Greco” and “Roman,” and a momentum-killing riot launched at the Mexican factory to give the Casey Affleck character something to do. (I’d rather see Pacino get something to do. Casey Affleck can take the week off.) Willy Bank is meant to be a formidable businessman but he’s so stupid that the boys can gain access to his inner office and distract him just by putting on silly disguises (Don Cheadle channels Evel Knievel, Brad Pitt does a hairy earthquake expert).
The dialogue delivers mostly duds: “He’s a VIP? So what does that make me? A VUP? A very unimportant person?” If you have to explain your joke, scratch it and start over. Danny rolls his eyes when the Andy Garcia character says, “I was born ready,” but the movie’s so unhip to cliche that guys say things like, “I’m gonna hunt you down. I know people,” or “I don’t lose. Those who bet on me to lose, lose, and they lose big.” Then there’s the strange jive patter: “We’re gonna have to dock this showboat.” “It’s a Billy Martin”–or second chance–is almost funny, but then again, if casinos teach us anything it’s that “almost winning” means “losing.”
An elaborately prepared Oprah joke does (eventually) pay off, though, and there’s an amusing scene about faking your way past the polygraph. A running gag in which Danny’s crew puts a hotel critic (David Paymer) through the wringer so he’ll give Bank’s place a business-destroying negative review works fairly well, but isn’t Vegas supposed to be more exciting than the politics of a Zagat rating?