Ocean's 8 cast
[Image: Warner Bros]

It’s easy to forget just how good Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven is.

Mostly because every other installment to this franchise has been lackluster. Especially its two follow-ups, but even the 1960 original that it is based on, as well as, sadly, the upcoming spin-off that will hit cinemas on Friday.

“Ocean’s 8 “shouldn’t feel so underwhelming. All of the cast are utterly superb, so much so that it would be a cinematic crime if Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter didn’t all re-team again for another film.

It’s just that their efforts are never given the big-screen panache to match their dazzling interplay and performances, both as individuals and as a collective.

 

Unfortunately, it is relatively easy to find culprits for “Ocean’s 8” ho-hum approach, too, as director Gary Ross and musician Daniel Pemberton are unable to come anywhere near the work of their predecessors Steven Soderbergh and David Holmes.

Instead, like a donkey at the Kentucky derby, their limitations are just brutally exposed in comparison.

Ross was always going to struggle to match the efforts of Soderbergh, who has proven adept at effortlessly making his film feel stylish. Especially in the “Ocean’s” franchise, where he’s so subtle at incorporating moments of gloss and cool, and pulling you in closer to the hijinks, that you almost don’t notice his magic at play.

In comparison, Ross’s direction just feels lame, especially because the roster of actors that he has at his disposal is arguably more impressive than what Soderbergh had to contend with.

Sure this is the movie equivalent of a billionaire complaining the leather seats of their Ferrari squeak, but in a game of “Ocean’s” top trumps I would definitely take Bullock over Clooney, Blanchett over Pitt and Hathaway over Damon, while Kaling, Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, and the goddess that is Helena Bonham Carter are just as exemplary, too. Especially because “Ocean’s Eleven” also includes Casey Affleck and Scott Caan.

But then again Soderbergh also had the services of David Holmes to enhance any scene. The Northern Irish musical magician had previously worked wonders alongside Soderbergh on “Out Of Sight,” but it was his efforts on Ocean’s Eleven that are still the pinnacle of his soundtrack career.

Holmes’ music is so vibrant and hypnotic that when you listen to it on the street you literally feel like you could rob a bank. Basically, it is dangerous.

David Pemberton’s soundtrack on the other hand is just plain forgettable. Of course a soundtrack can’t save a mediocre film. But with the cast that “Ocean’s 8” had at its disposal there were plenty of opportunities to at least underscore one iconic moment to burn into moviegoers’ memories.

But neither Ross or Pemberton managed to make the most of what they had at their disposal, and as such the “Ocean’s” franchise is now 1 out of 5 when it comes to quality movies.

That being said, I’m still gunning for “8” to be a magnificent success. Because if it is the coagulation of Clooney, Pitt, Damon et al with Bullock, Blanchett, and Hathaway’s crew could actually become a reality, and that would be a cinematic smorgasbord for the ages.

Just as long as Soderbergh is the one to cook it all up.