Movies

Cue the cool jazz

'Ocean's Eight' spinoff an amiable, female-led heist movie

This year's Met Gala went off without a hitch, and now, a month later, "Ocean's Eight" is invading the most exclusive party in America to create a little chaos and make off with millions in jewelry.

As the title suggests, "Ocean" is a spin off -- and also a sequel to -- Steven Soderbergh's 2000s trio of heist films: "Ocean's Eleven," "Ocean's Twelve" and "Ocean's Thirteen." But this time, the women are the masterminds.

Although Matt Damon's cameo didn't survive the #metoo moment following internet protests, co-writer/director Gary Ross ("Pleasantville," "The Hunger Games") does include a few links to the previous trilogy, but mostly "Ocean's Eight" works to establish a new, all-female ensemble headed by Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the sister of George Clooney's Danny Ocean.

Just released from a five-year stretch in a New Jersey prison, Debbie immediately recruits her best friend Lou (Cate Blanchett) to partner in the heist.

Bullock and Blanchett are joined by Helena Bonham Carter (as a fashion designer in need of a win), Rihanna (as the requisite hacker extraordinaire), Mindy Kaling ("The Mindy Project"), Sarah Paulson ("American Horror Story") and Awkwafina (of Warner's upcoming "Crazy Rich Asians").

If the math seems a little fuzzy there, that's part of the labyrinthine plotting of a heist movie. The eighth woman beholden to Ocean is a "mark": Anne Hathaway as movie star and Met Gala invitee Daphne Kluger. Not even the surprises are quite surprises here, since "Ocean's Eight" recycles a formula now very familiar from not only these films but from the 1960s legacy that spawned them. One shouldn't underestimate the degree of difficulty here, though, in plotting a heist story and, more so, in juggling this many characters (plus Richard Armitage as Debbie's caddish ex and James Corden as an insurance investigator).

Ross brings a sure hand and plenty of eye candy to this slick, glitzy fantasy, which is no more or less than an amiable, star-powered trifle. The stars are all on their respective games (and arguably the least famous one, Awkwafina, turns out to be the comical M.V.P.).

"Ocean's Eight" doesn't quite manage the snap of Soderbergh's films, but composer Daniel Pemberton obligingly kicks out some cool jazz, enough for a Pavlovian response in the good company of a strong ensemble.

— Peter Canavese

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