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With: George Clooney, Bernie Mac, Brad Pitt, Elliott
Written by: Ted Griffin, based on the 1960 story by George
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language and sexual content
Running Time: 116
Date: 05/12/2001

Ocean's Eleven (2001)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Jokers Hit the Jackpot

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Now that director Steven Soderbergh has established himself as a Prestigious and Important American Director with his message films Erin Brockovich and Traffic, he can get back to making the same top-notch entertainments that we loved him for in the first place, like Out of Sight and The Limey.

Taking off on something (I believe) the late Vincent Canby once said, Soderbergh and screenwriter Ted Griffin (Ravenous and Best Laid Plans) set out to remake a bad movie for a change instead of a good one. The original 1960 Rat Pack flick Ocean's Eleven, directed by sixty-something Lewis Milestone was a plodding, boring mess that simply had Frank, Dino and Sammy posing a lot.

Instead of trying to create a new Rat Pack (or, God forbid, casting the Brat Pack of the 1980s), Soderbergh puts together a crackerjack cast of cool 21st century stars: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Elliot Gould, Casey Affleck, and Julia Roberts in the same thankless girlfriend role that Angie Dickinson occupied in the original. Andy Garcia steps up, using some of his Godfather III tough-guy clout to play the all-powerful casino owner.

A very funny scene has Brad Pitt teaching a group of young Hollywood up-and-comers (mostly WB TV stars) how to play poker, with the up-and-comers all playing themselves: Holly Marie Combs, Topher Grace (also in Traffic), Joshua Jackson and others.

These stars seem to be enjoying themselves just as much as the original cast, but here the focus is on the heist and not the playtime. Soderbergh and Griffin concoct a doozy of a robbery, seemingly impossible with a new hitch around every corner. The cast, headed by Clooney, never loses its cool and never gives away a surprise beforehand (except for one minor one involving Julia Roberts and a cell phone).

After a severely rocky start that included the godawful Batman and Robin, Clooney has firmly established himself as a real movie star, embodying qualities that Cary Grant and Gary Cooper (maybe even a little John Wayne) had. He effortlessly steals the screen, making girls want to sleep with him and guys want to be him.

Thanks to Clooney, Soderbergh and Griffin, this Ocean's Eleven reveals a tight, well-oiled engine and proves a solid good time, though it doesn't seem quite as innovative or essential as Out of Sight or The Limey. Very much worth seeing.

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