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Ocean’s 8 – Too Much Command, Not Enough Charm

“Make me guess, then I’m interested.”

Cate Blanchet co-stars in “Ocean’s Eight” as Lou, the sidekick to Sandra Bullock’s leading character, Debbie Ocean.  She utters this line as Debbie coerces her into a new, heisty rob-job.

Debbie is the deceased Danny Ocean’s sister.

Oh yes. They did that. They killed Danny.

Ick.

The movie opens with Debbie being released from prison, a scene meant to establish this ring leader as a smooth, all-the-way-in-charge operator who can see all the angles and work all the curves. She’s ballsy, sexy and slick with the stickiest fingers.

Immediately, she assembles a girl gang to execute the job of all jobs. They’re going to steal multi-millions worth of jewels from Daphne’s (Anne Hathaway) neck, the self-involved ingénue guarded by military trained security in full view of patrons at the Met Gala.

Very Ocean’s franchise.

To slay the task, Bullock and Blanchet band together the at-her-whit’s-end fashion mogul, Rose (Helena Bonham Carter); the merch booster turned suburban mom, Tammy (Sarah Paulson); the techy overalls wearing, braids rocking and Patua spitting, Nine Ball (Rhianna); the jewel-cutting, overaged Indian woman running from tradition and, of course, her mother, Amita (Mindy Kaling); and jive-talkin’ sleight of hand mastermind, Constance (Awkwafina).

Even with this star-studded, highly accomplished cast, “Ocean’s Eight” never packs that gut-punching excitement common to capers. Instead of a sense of guessing to keep us interested, there is a sense of waiting. When will it pick up? When do we get to the twist?

Food, fashion, and flirting don’t save this lifeless, culturally misshapen character trope titanic. We root for the romantically scorn Ocean, but never for the troupe. There is never a moment when we care if they get that necklace.

A trip inside the Met Gala and revenge against a bastard of an ex-boyfriend are fun, but this movie is only moderately so. It’s pleasant, but never awesome. It’s entertaining, but never exciting.

The worst is that it’s not about the expectations that are dashed, but rather the hopes. Everyone wants this movie to succeed; wants these women to pack the seats in a box-office blitz. Score for the ladies. But, they lose…us.

Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchet in “Ocean’s Eight”.

The devil is in the trying too hard. The other installments in the Ocean’s franchise were a light mix of crime, glamour, and self-aware humor. That was the charm, the good natured (and super cute) bad boys.

The ladies lost that. They lost sight of it. They appear to want to prove too desperately that they can command; that they are equal. They lose sight of us.

Here’s guessing that Ocean’s 9 and 10 will be sent to movie prison with no chance of parole.

Lonita Cook

Lonita Cook is a BetterKC Film Critic (KCTV5), and the author of the paranormal romance novel, The Chronicles of Cyn: Awaken the Sleeper.

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