Life’s a beach in ‘Ocean’s’ |

Life’s a beach in ‘Ocean’s’

Finally: We at last have a third movie in a series this summer that isn’t a massive disappointment. ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’ doesn’t break any new ground, but it eschews the globetrotting and gigantic in-joke nature of ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ and returns to Vegas for a spirited caper. It’s funny, fast-paced and beautiful to look at, and it sports a truckload of Hollywood’s highest-wattage stars operating at the height of their charming powers – which comes in handy when it comes to selling some of the movie’s more logic-defying tricks.Danny Ocean’s (George Clooney) crew of 11 (or is it 13?), now wealthy after their previous scores but not necessarily settled down, spring into action yet again, but this time the motive is revenge, not filthy lucre (OK, it’s a bit of both). Ruben (Elliott Gould) enters a shady partnership with casino and hotel owner Willy Bank, played by Al Pacino as a burnt-orange, nightmare version of Donald Trump. When Bank strong-arms Ruben out of his share in their Vegas development, Ruben suffers a heart attack. The boys reunite to ruin Willy Bank in time for his big grand opening – it’s that simple. The schemes to bring Bank down, of course, are anything but. To disrupt Bank’s “unbeatable” security system, the boys enlist former enemy Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) to purchase a gigantic drill used to dig the Chunnel in order to fake an earthquake under Bank’s hotel. Virgil and Turk (Casey Affleck and Scott Caan)get jobs in a Mexican dice factory, so they can personally weight a specific batch of dice with powdered lead. Linus (Matt Damon) finally gets his chance to play with the big boys when he’s tasked with seducing Bank’s right-hand woman Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin) so they can steal Bank’s – ah, forget it. You’ll see for yourself.There’s not really any time for character development, but each character gets at least one marquee scene, while Damon, Pitt and Clooney preside over the ceremonies. Pitt and Clooney especially sell their trademark brand of effortless, masculine charm, and fabulous wealth apparently hasn’t diminished their propensity for boyish banter. Pacino is especially good as Bank, and he avoids his usual bug-eyed screaming routine to dig for a much more natural menace. Barkin is good but a fleeting presence, like most of the characters.Unlike “Ocean’s Eleven,” the film lacks any real tension or obstacles to overcome; we basically watch the photogenic crew as they trundle along to success in every endeavor without even breaking much of a sweat. The fun is, of course, in watching their schemes play out, but it would’ve been interesting to throw some real problems in front of Ocean’s crew and see how they squirm out of it when things don’t go as planned.A subplot about the crew sabotaging a hotel reviewer’s stay is clever, and Virgil and Turk lead a hilarious worker’s revolt while in Mexico. The wives from previous films (Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones) are dispensed with in the first few minutes of the film with two lines of dialogue from Ocean and Rusty Ryan (Pitt), so this is a boys-only affair.Director Steven Soderbergh (who also serves as cinematographer under the pseudonym Peter Andrews) is a brilliant visual stylist who seesaws between indie work and mainstream movies; here, he crafts a visual love letter to Vegas, drenching the settings in colors so warm and luxurious that the locales seem to glow with energy and promise. There’s not a lot of dramatic heavy lifting to deal with, as in “Traffic” or “Solaris,” but Soderbergh never leaves a frame less than perfectly composed, and he utilizes all manner of tricks (split-screens, text intrusion, quick pans) to give Ocean’s crew and Vegas itself a certain fizzy pop. People expecting pathos and deep drama obviously need to look elsewhere, but “Ocean’s Thirteen” improves on its predecessor by going smaller and playing to the cast and character’s strengths. It’s a lark, and it doesn’t try to be anything more than that. It’s a lesson I wish Ocean and crew would’ve shared with a certain spider and pirate a little earlier.Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or Daily, Vail, Colorado

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