What eleven men can do, eight women can do better.. in theory. In Ocean’s 8? Not so much.
Billed as a girl-power take on the Ocean’s 11 franchise, this film isn’t a reboot (or a prequel, even though the lower number might suggest it). This is a parallel story, with Sandra Bullock playing Debbie Ocean, sister to George Clooney’s Danny Ocean. And parallel is the key word here. Where Clooney had Brad Pitt as his wingman, Cate Blanchett signs on as Sandra’s second.
And as in O11, they put together a crew to pull off a brazen heist and steal something that’s unstealable (yes, we know that’s not a word, but for this movie we must resort to non-words). Their target is a $150 million diamond necklace, and Anne Hathaway’s character is the unwitting mule to help get it out.
Lack of Motivation
The main problem with this film is, we really have no idea why these ladies, including Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, and Awkwafina, are doing what they do. Sure the movie tries to service their backstories. Hard times for a designer (Carter). Underused talents by a gifted pickpocket (Awkwafina) and reclusive hacker (Rihanna). Because it’s what she’s good at (Bullock).
But you never really buy into their motivations. Maybe the writer expected us to draw natural connections to their counterparts in Ocean’s 11-13. Or maybe he just figured that casting that many stars would distract us from the fact that the characters were sketched out but never colored in.
Either way, all we know is the ladies are all in on a heist that will, if successful, set them up for life.
And that’s where the suspense comes in, right? Surely once we get to the suspense of the heist, we, as viewers, will commit to these characters and the plot. Ummm, keep reading.
The (main) problem with this film is, there is absolutely no suspense. We never really feel like these women are going to get caught. Not because we have supreme confidence in their abilities. No, each briefly demonstrates their skill early in the film and we are left to assume that they are clearly at the top of their field, just waiting for the right opportunity.
It’s because lazy writing presents a problem then solves it in a quick, efficient, and easy way. At every turn they are able resolve issues that should present an existential threat to the heist. This especially maddening when the team learns the necklace will have a magnetic lock that can only be opened by the security team. But one phone call and a semi-clandestine meet up later and, voilá, problem solved!
There is literally NO edge-of-your-seat drama in this film. None. There is more suspense in waiting to see if the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning than there is in this movie.
Eight Is Enough
By restarting at eight, it suggests that producers
plan hoped to make a nine and ten, and then sell a box set of Ocean’s 8-13. Let’s hope those plans are scuttled.
This concept was shaky enough, and leaves them with enough money and law enforcement well off their trail. Whatever writers could come up with to bring them back to a life of high-end petty crime would fall short of even the lowered expectations set by this chapter.
And while it will open to about $30 million domestic this weekend, this should definitely be a one and done. Those kind of box office receipts won’t be enough to pay the salaries of multiple A-Listers going forward.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
A martini, with an extra olive. It’s what Debbie Ocean drinks when she goes to visit the crypt of her recently departed brother, Danny. That suggests that we won’t see George Clooney making an appearance (besides a framed picture) in the franchise. He probably read the script. But then again, we never actually see the body, so it could just be a con. But no con is bigger than the con this movie runs to get $10 out of each moviegoer.