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By Clint Morris | December 11, 2004

They say too many cooks spoil the broth, but what if each of the cooks all brought one distinctive special ingredient to the table, resulting in something that tastes even better than what it would’ve had just the one kitchen-hand been behind the ladle?

That’s what you get with Ocean’s Eleven and the new sequel, “Ocean’s Twelve”, something that’s appetizing if only because each of the players brings something unique to the proceedings.

You’ve got George Clooney’s gushing magnetism and pull, Brad Pitt’s sex appeal and amicability, Matt Damon’s rarely seen talent for farce, Julia Roberts old moviestar style appeal and sophistication, and Andy Garcia’s imposing and spotlight hoggin’ presence as the token bad guy. Throw in Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck and Scott Caan, add a dash of veterans – Elliot Gould and Carl Reiner, and just this once, sprinkle in a bit of the divine Catherine Zeta-Jones and you have quite the full plate.

Though not a shade on the headline acts that adorn them, the plot of “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) – an old Rat Pack movie reworked, given a nice shine and polish – was pretty well done. You had the old-time thief, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) rounding up the best men in his trade (Pitt’s crafty Rusty, Damon’s handy Linus, Affleck and Caan’s master of disguise double-act and so on) for a job that involved snagging a big-timer’s (Andy Garcia) Casino loot.

They’re using the same stencil for “Ocean’s Twelve”, but by adding a new look, fresh set of characters and hasty pace, manage to make it all seem brand new – most of it anyway.

A much rougher, almost indie-looking film than the first, the European-set sequel sees our robber troupe getting back together – because they’re forced to. Benedict (Garcia) has caught up with them, and now, he wants his moolah back. Solution? A new job, one that will earn them all quite a pretty penny, which in turn, they can hand over to the slimy Casino owner in exchange for their lives.

Since they’re still being watched in the United States – mainly by Catherine Zeta Jones’ Interpol agent, whose been sleeping with Pitt’s character – they decide the only possibility is to pull the job overseas where they run into a master thief known only as “The Night Fox” (Vincent Cassell).

It’s amazing how ‘un-Hollywood’ this film actually looks and consequently comes across. If we didn’t know the stars, one could almost swear it was a European flick from the 70s or 80s, what with its perceptible grain, use of hand-held, freeze frames and archetypal freeze frames. Steven Soderbergh obviously wanted the sequel to look and feel different from its predecessor, and simply by changing the locale and giving the film this distinctive old-world look, he’s done that.

But as with the first film, it’s the all-star cast that keeps you glued, not the locale, not the storyline. Clooney is his usual charming self (and even takes a couple of self-depreciating jabs at himself), Pitt is too, Damon gets some good laughs, Catherine-Zeta Jones hogs a fair bit of the film and no qualms here – she looks gorgeous, and Julia Roberts has a fantastic moment towards the film’s final half that is just too cool to spoil.

In addition, Frenchman Vincent Cassell is a ripper edition to the cast. He’s not only a good physical match for a master thief that can weave in and out of anywhere, but he delivers a performance that’s brimming with just the right amount of fascination and smarminess.

With so many players packed into the one film some are bound to be left out, and there’s no immunity here. Bernie Mac has very little to do, Garcia doesn’t do much either, and the vets of the cast, Gould and Reiner are dishonourably underused. Most of the charge falls on the screenplay, which seemingly didn’t know how to use all of the cast members. Funnily enough, it wasn’t conceived with “Ocean’s Twelve” in mind but an unrelated film, something John Woo was planning to do at one stage. That might explain why it’s a film that really only takes care of three or four of the majors headlining it, and leaves everyone else on the bench.

“Ocean’s Twelve” may put-off some viewers with its almost-experiment approach to filmmaking, but those after a film that’s the chalk to the original’s cheese should find the sides-adorned serving to their liking. You mightn’t have as much fun as the cast obviously did making it – it looks like one giant A-listers holiday – but it will put a smile on your dial.

There aren’t a lot of films around that one can truly say you get your money’s worth, but with the “Ocean’s” movies, you most certainly do. This film’s twelve times better than anything else on offer at the moment.

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