CineMaierson: “Ocean’s 8” Review

Oceans 8 is an entertaining heist film that pays adequate homage to the original.

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“Ocean’s 8” is an entertaining heist film that pays adequate homage to the original.

Eli Maierson, Senior Assignments Editor

Equipped with barely functioning eyes, a laptop and no experience whatsoever, Senior Assignments Editor Eli Maierson reviews the latest the theater has to offer in “CineMaierson.”

As much as I love the original “Ghostbusters” film from 1984, I fully recognized the need for an update. The movie — as funny as it is — is filled with cracks about women being secretaries and jokes that won’t land in today’s political climate. In theory, then, the plan to remake “Ghostbusters” with an all-female cast was a great idea.

Unfortunately for moviegoers everywhere, 2016’s redo was a flop on all fronts except the box office. Despite a cast loaded with star power, the film was a bloated, mediocre fan letter to the original. While the original had smart, absurd humor with smart, absurd characters, the remake featured dumb physical comedy with forgettable characters and performances. I can only watch Melissa McCarthy make jokes about wontons for so long.

2001’s “Ocean’s 11” holds an even higher place in my heart and remains a favorite from my childhood. Although it is a remake itself (of a much older film from 1960), a spinoff in the vein of 2016’s “Ghostbusters” concerned me.

Ocean’s 8 manages to shine as a funny, exciting heist film that tastefully adds to the canon of the other movies, although some characters are weaker than others.

The plot parallels that of 2001’s Ocean’s 11. Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister of now-deceased Danny Ocean (George Clooney from the previous Ocean films), is granted parole after five years in prison. After wowing the audience with a series of smart, small heists at a mall, she links back up with her partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett), and starts to assemble a team of thieves to steal the Toussaint diamond from the Met Gala. While far from unique, the movie’s plot remains true to its genre in its acts: the planning of the crime, the crime and the aftermath.

Nods to the Clooney films are scattered throughout. Elliott Gould and Shaobo Qin reprise their roles as Reuben and “The Amazing” Yen, respectively. A picture of Clooney can also be seen in Debbie Ocean’s home.

The biggest draw of the film is the all-star cast. Bullock, Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna headline a deep, talented company of actresses. Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson and Awkwafina round out the rest of the felons.

Nearly every member of the group takes turns playing the comic relief. Some, like Kaling’s Amita and Carter’s Rose Weil, are hilarious and service the plot. Others, like Awkwafina’s Constance and Blanchett’s Lou, are only good for the occasional one-liner tacked onto the story. While some of these jokes land, they don’t add much to the movie’s overall enjoyment.

Hathaway’s Daphne Kluger, a ditzy, vain celebrity, steals the show. As the bearer of the Toussaint at the Met Gala — and thus the target of the crime — much of the group’s plan involves tricking, confusing and manipulating Kluger, and the laughs rarely stop.

With a cast this large, some characters are bound to disappoint. Rihanna, who plays savvy hacker Nine-Ball, is the film’s resident sales-booster. Her character, while crucial to the plot of the heist, is the least developed and funny of the squad. James Corden’s role as an insurance fraud investigator, while occasionally funny, could have been skipped.

These forgettable appearances hurt my interest in the characters on-screen. As entertaining as Bullock, Hathaway, Kailing and Carter are, I was significantly less invested in all of the other thieves.  

Many theft movies feature plot twists and subsequent revelations in the execution of the heist, and it is here that the story takes a blow. For nearly the entire film, the crew of thieves had seven fairly-established members. In the last 15 minutes, the crew grows to 10, one of which is on-screen for a grand total of two minutes. The new characters feel crammed into what could have been a more enjoyable experience at the theater.

Ocean’s 8 is not a classic theft movie or comedy. But unlike the Ghostbusters remake, it doesn’t pale in comparison to its predecessors. Ocean’s 8 manages to put out a solid heist movie that, despite occasional hiccups and a formulaic plot, contains some sweet nods to the other films and genuine laughs along the way.

Rating: 3.5/5