After the all-female Ghostbusters film failed to make a positive impression with audiences, when the all-female Ocean’s reboot was announced it seemed like a dicey proposition. The 2016 Ghostbusters didn’t work because many felt it didn’t encompass what made the original 1984 action-comedy such a winner. If Ocean’s Eight were to succeed, director Gary Ross would have to recreate the magic former Ocean’s director Steven Soderbergh (credited as producer) and his memorable cast were able to capture.

That being said, the Ocean’s Trilogy is loved and revered because they’re films which remind audiences of the golden age of Hollywood – big-name celebrities hamming it up and clearly having fun while they’re working. There is an innocence during those times which parlays itself into fun for those who make movies and those who watch them.

Eight stars Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Awkwafina, Helena Bonham Carter and James Corden, and if nothing else Ross has the acting talent to provide excellent chemistry. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and the rest of the crew from the first Ocean’s reboot (a reminder - 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven is a reboot of the 1960 Ocean’s 11 starring the infamous Rat Pack) played off each other swimmingly over the course of three films. Their repartee seemed effortless and organic – luckily the current cast is all on the same page, too.

Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, the estranged sister of Daniel “Danny” Ocean (Clooney), and although her sentences aren’t being finished by her partner Lou (Blanchett, who’s channeling the spirit of Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan), the pair is clearly comfortable with each other and work well together in nearly every sense. Paulson, who always displays an understated calmness with each role, does the same here and impressively does well to juggle her confidence-scheming ways with her homemaker mom alter ego. Kaling is more quiet than usual – she makes way for Rihanna and Bonham Carter to stretch their acting legs a little. Awkwafina is the acting newcomer – she’s a pickpocket who isn’t given much to do other than pick pockets and comment on how good-looking Debbie’s brother is.

Ross and Olivia Milch co-wrote a serviceable script that tries a little too hard to outsmart its audience. In doing so, some fun is sacrificed – Ocean’s Eight is fun enough thanks to the cast, but one can tell that the talent saved the script (much like with Ocean’s Twelve). At the same time, some of the same story arcs are lifted from Ted Griffin’s Ocean’s Eleven script. In this sense Ross and Milch felt it much safer to imitate and emulate. The familiarity, though, should win audiences over.

The most interesting aspect of Eight is its meta play with Anne Hathaway and her character, fictional actress Daphne Kluger. As the target of the crew’s heist, Daphne comes to represent what audiences seemingly despise in celebrities, namely celebrity actresses. On top of that, there has been some hate for Hathaway in real life. With this role she won’t do anything here which will assuage those sentiments, but I find it interesting the Oscar winner is facing that saltiness head on (but years later). Still, Hathaway is perfect as she’s the source of some decent humor, complete with apt timing and personality changes with the flip of a switch.

Eight has its drawbacks, its biggest being that despite the grandeur of the caper, at its center is the pain and scorn of a man who broke a woman’s heart. In this case, Debbie’s heart was broken years ago by Claude Becker (Richard Armitage), an art dealer who gave up Debbie in order to avoid jail time. Needless to say, their relationship has since soured and Debbie may still be a tad upset with him. That subplot undermines the rather impressive actions (and motivations) of this “crew de la femmes,” and it can be a dealbreaker depending on your perspective.

The important things to take away from Ocean’s Eight - it’s fun, but not as fun as the Ocean’s Trilogy; and the cast’s chemistry is impressive. There are cameos which provide the prerequisite callback, and there are a pair of twists, although one is obvious (the other, not so much). It feels a little unpolished, even rough, but it’s still slick enough to warrant a viewing. If it does well enough at the box office to be rewarded a sequel, I think the potential is there to be even better.

3.5 stars out of 5


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