The sequel Ocean's Twelve happily offers the same breezy boys' club atmosphere as its predecessor, with the scrappy Ocean gang heading to Europe for another high-stakes adventure. Yet, rather than stick with a simple plan, the overcomplicated Twelve gets bogged down by its own cleverness.
Three years since relieving ruthless Las Vegas hotel owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) of a large chunk of cash, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew--including detail man Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and novice pickpocket Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon)--have tried to live modest, legit lives. Sure, it's hard to go straight, but hey, at least they got away with the heist of the century. Right? Not quite. Seems a mysterious someone has ratted the gang out to Benedict, who demands his $160 million back or else. Strapped of most of their cash, and too hot in the United States to pull off a job, Ocean and company decide Europe would be the best place to score, much to the chagrin of Danny's wife, Tess (Julia Roberts). Once in Europe, however, they find out it isn't as easy as it used to be. They run up against the tough-as-nails Europol agent Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who once had a fling with Rusty, and Europe's premier master thief, the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel), who seems to be one step ahead of Ocean's crew. Let the games begin.
Ocean's Twelve's crop of A-listers have way too much fun making these movies, as they recapture that freewheeling spirit and good-ole-boy camaraderie from Ocean's Eleven. Even though sometimes it seems like they are a bunch of frat boys hazing each other, the actors clearly are enjoying themselves tremendously--and so do we. Clooney and Pitt continue to be the suave ringleaders, speaking to each other in code, while Pitt's Rusty gets the love interest this time around. As Rusty's former flame, Zeta-Jones holds her own with the boys but doesn't have nearly the chemistry with Pitt that Roberts and Clooney exude as marrieds Danny and Tess. Actually, Roberts almost steals Twelve away from the guys: she gets to show off her comedic abilities in one of the film's most hysterical sequences, which involves real-life movie stars and Fabergé eggs. As far as the rest of the gang, they all are back and raring to go, including Damon, who comes off as even more green and eager as Linus, and the hilarious bickering Malloy brothers, played brilliantly by Scott Caan and Casey Affleck. As for the villains, Garcia's Benedict has very little do, leaving most of the malevolent posturing and stylish good looks to French actor Cassel (Birthday Girl) as the crafty Night Fox.
With one of the keenest eyes in the business, director Steven Soderbergh is a pro at letting audiences experience what seem to be very personal moments in his films. Ocean's Twelve is no exception, as we become privy to the locker-room antics of our favorite band of thieves. This makes you as much a part of the boys club as its rowdy stars. Soderbergh describes Twelve as a ''movie in which everything goes wrong from the get-go,'' whereas everything went right in Eleven. This allows for some wonderful comic scenes, such as Roberts' escapade and the quick-witted exchanges between the boys. Upon finding out that the gang is now called ''Ocean's Eleven'', safecracker Frank (Bernie Mac) exclaims, ''Who decided that? I'm a private contractor!'' The film's inherent problems come from George Nolfi's screenplay, which tries to incorporate the whole ''greatest thief in America meets the greatest thief in Europe'' idea. Suddenly, Twelve becomes less about planning a heist, and watching things go wrong, than about a cock fight to see which thief can outdo the other thief. At the end, when all the convoluted twists are revealed, you're left wishing for simpler times.
Although bolstered by individual moments of pure hilarity and ribaldry from the entirely engaging cast, Ocean's Twelve doesn't quite measure up to the effortlessness of Eleven. The film is just too smart and twisty for its own good.