Gender-swapping movie spin-offs come with some unfortunate baggage. The female stars of 2016's Ghostbusters faced foes in the form of internet trolls before anyone saw them bust a single ghost. So if you're nervous about Ocean's 8, a female-led spin-off of the 2000's Ocean's trilogy, let me ease your trepidation.
Ocean's 8 succeeds as a fun heist movie that slots perfectly into the Ocean's cinematic universe. It doesn't strive to be more substance than style, yet it's still special. It's filled with Oscar winners who elevate a middling script. It portrays powerful women who can inspire young women to dream they can do anything. Like... uh, become criminal masterminds.
Luckily, director Gary Ross isn't concerned with the aforementioned baggage at all. Aside from a few self-aware lines for a laugh, the action carries on.
After five-and-a-half years in jail, Sandra Bullock's cool, calm and collected Debbie Ocean, Danny's sister, spends the first 48 hours of her release doing two things: shoplifting and recruiting allies for her next act of thievery. Why? "Because it's what I'm good at."
Her first partner comes in the form of Bullock's fellow Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, playing Australian nightclub owner Lou whose Keith Richards-inspired patterned suits and ties will probably spur an Ocean's clothing line. Cue These Boots Are Made For Walkin' and similar songs as the duo visit talented felons, recruit them and get down to the heist, as per the Ocean's montage formula.
But all is not as it seems, as Debbie also has revenge in mind involving an ex-lover. Sound familiar? George Clooney's Danny also brought relationship history to his heist on the Bellagio. His current status is also revealed in this movie and might be controversial to some. Meanwhile Lou fills a similar role to Brad Pitt's Rusty Ryan, the younger, stunningly good-looking sidekick. Although, this time round it's Debbie who's often chowing down on food.
The other women on the team are familiar, but not overt stereotypes. Emmy winner Sarah Paulson as Tammy, a suburban mum with a garage filled with mixers and bikes she's reselling on the down-low, could be a stand in for Matt Damon's nervous Linus, although she eventually blossoms as an event organizer.
The event in question is the Met Gala, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Debbie's master plan culminates in the attempted theft of the $150 million-worth Cartier diamond necklace from Oscar winner Anne Hathaway's obnoxious celebrity, Daphne Kluger.
Among all the weird Met Gala celebrity cameos, each of the main characters has her time to shine. Rihanna is Nine Ball, the weed-smoking tech expert who can hack just about anything, including the lights of the old mansion the women hole up in.
Hathaway pulls off the self-absorbed celebrity with aplomb. The motivations of the others are briefly touched on, with Mindy Kaling's jewelry expert Amita dealing with a smothering mother, Awkwafina's street urchin thief Constance in it for the money and Helena Bonham Carter's Irish fashion designer Rose Weil struggling to dig herself out of debt.
Ross nails the tone of Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's trilogy, with aerial shots of New York, slick editing transitions and an upbeat soundtrack. Unfortunately, he doesn't do much else. The character and setting parallels are steps backward and the movie looks and feels like it's from the early 2000s.
Amid the breeziness, tension is low. Minor hiccups challenge the team, but Debbie's plan is so supremely clever that fear of failure is virtually nonexistent. One-line throwaway explanations are one too many.
Ocean's 8 captures the cool essence of the original trilogy with a cast we could watch steal diamonds all day. While it's lacking in originality, it's still breezy fun. What's wrong with that?
Ocean's 8 struts into cinemas June 8 in the US, June 18 in the UK and June 7 in Australia.
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