Review: Ocean's Twelve

Christina's group at Microsoft hosted a company morale event this morning. Those with corporate experience recognize that as renting out a movie theater and paying for the popcorn and admissions. The twist in this case was that they actually rented a multiplex, so we had our pick of movies playing there. We all opted, of course, for Ocean's Twelve.
The tagline is that "twelve is the new eleven," but you get the feeling that no one wanted to make the new eleven. After all, the heist film is its own Hollywood genre, and Soderbergh and company checked that off their list last time. How to bring something fresh to the oeuvre, keep Warner Bros happy, and get the studio to foot the bill while the stars hang out at Clooney's villa at Lake Como? That's a master caper in and of itself.
Ocean's Twelve is a post-modern heist movie. What it isn't interested in is presenting another of those airtight heists that stands up under a fastidious audience, scrutinizing every frame for implausibilities. Right from the start, Soderbergh makes this clear. Terry Benedict finds Tess (Julia Roberts) and then proceeds to visit every member of Ocean's 11, all over the world. Apparently none of them were considerate enough to call each other to warn each other that Benedict is coming, but it allows Andy Garcia the opportunity to drop in on each of them unawares and for us to see their reactions.
One of the most endearing elements of Ocean's 11 was how it embraced its star power and used it unabashedly. George Clooney is a charming movie star, and he essentially plays one on screen (okay, he's a thief, but he's a thief that looks and speaks and acts like George Clooney). We didn't want Cary Grant to play a cowboy, we wanted him to play Cary Grant, and we don't want George Clooney in a batsuit, we want to see his face. Brad Pitt in designer suits? Casey Affleck playing...okay, he's Casey Affleck, as usual. The whole time I was watching Ocean's 11, I couldn't stop thinking of how much fun all those actors had working on the movie together.
Ocean's Twelve just blurs that line between actor and role even further, and in one amusing plot twist, nearly erases it altogether. Clooney and Pitt still finish each other's lines and speak in hip, and everyone looks good in their wardrobes. The movie winks at us in offering a gang of thieves that looks like this, but we're winking back: do you want your policemen to look like Paul Giamatti or Catherine Zeta Jones? Is that a mug shot of George Clooney?
Clooney accuses another character of violating Rule No. 1, and this movie seems to violate Rule No. 1 of heist movies, which is to show everything on screen. You can try and outwit the movie using onscreen clues, but don't waste your time. Just enjoy the company, admire the clothing, and take in the European scenery. Ocean's Twelve is an expensive, star-studded indie film. It may not be what heist aficionados expected, but I bet the poker nights at Clooney's place in Lake Como were a hell of a lot more fun than your regular Sunday night game. In fact, if they have footage of some of those (I saw someone in the movie running around with a Canon XL1 or XL2, documenting proceedings), they could issue that as Ocean's Thirteen.