‘Ocean’s 8’ doesn’t try to be more than what it is

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The #MeToo movement of smart, empowered women deliver a somewhat light but entertaining start-of-the-summer blockbuster. Unlike Ghostbusters (2016), It feels like a natural extension of George Clooney’s “Oceans” trilogy rather than just a “female” version of the familiar series. The cast performs without apologies or excuses needed.

Led by Sandra Bullock as Danny Ocean’s estranged sister Debbie, and Cate Blanchett as her longtime partner, the all-star cast and almost endless list of cameos brings a smile to your face at almost every turn. We hoped for more laughter, tension and pizzazz, but did enjoy this mildly pleasant film for many reasons.

On the eleventh anniversary of “Ocean’s Thirteen,” this feature does not venture too far from the “Oceans” formula. Gary Ross (“Hunger Games”) takes over for Director Steven Soderbergh. The first third presents an introduction to the characters, the middle is the actual heist and final reel presents a “how they did it” including a plot twist.

The story begins with Debbie Ocean pleading to the parole board for a simple life if released from prison. Once out, she immediately cons her way into a lavish lifestyle at others’ unknowing expense. For five years, she’s been working on a new heist. Wasting no time, she needs a team of notorious specialists to make it happen.

Other than Lou (Blanchett), her longtime partner, the new team will include Amita (Mindy Kaling), Tammy (Sarah Paulson), Nine Ball (Rhianna), Rose (Helena Bonham Carter) and Constance (Rapper Awkwafina). Each member of this impossible missions team is cool, self-assured and eager to put her skills to good use (and reward).

This year’s heist of the century is to steal a 150 million dollar Cartier necklace at the star-studded Met Gala in New York City. Although heavily guarded, part of the plan is to arrange for the elegant and arrogant superstar Daphe Kluger (Anne Hathaway) to be wearing that jewelry. Apparently, the devil wears Prada. Who knew?

The primary cast collectively has earned four Oscars, two Emmys, eight Grammy’s and six Golden Globes. In addition, the various cameos include Katie Holmes, Olivia Munn, Kim Kardashian, Carl Reiner, Dakota Fanning and Marlo Thomas, as well as Kylie and Kendall Jenner. There is also small parts for Elliot Gould and Shaobo Quin, the only cast members from the prior “Ocean’s” series.

Director Ross, who also wrote the story, doesn’t effectively use all his talent, but each lights up the screen and entertains the audience. With a weaker cast, Ocean’s ship might not have sailed, but they are all slick, quirky and charismatic. More important, they have a wonderful chemistry with each other and making it look fun.

Ignoring the shameless product placement, including Vogue and even Subway sandwiches, we heard the Mary Tyler Moore TV theme song and “Boots are Made for Walking” in the soundtrack. James Corden could have hosted a carpool karaoke, as he makes a marvelous insurance investigator. Richard Armitage (“The Hobbit”) makes a credible scoundrel; while Jennifer Lawrence turned down a role due to scheduling conflicts.

“Ocean’s 8” is 110 minutes and rated PG-13 for language, drug use and suggestive content. Give credit to a movie that doesn’t try to be more than what it is. It’s mostly style over substance, but with runways filled with glamorous people dressed to the nines and lots of flashy jewelry to lust after, girls just want to have fun. Are we right ladies?

Bullock has grown from the girl next door to a strong-willed leader with gravitas and swagger. She even gets to speak her native German in a few scenes. Sure, the movie doesn’t have the power we were expecting, but it’s best to not overthink this cinematic delight, just enjoy these crazy eights for what they are. After all, every con has its pros.

Ron’s Rating: B
Leigh’s Rating: B

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Ron & Leigh Martel