Poor acting and terrible plot make ‘Twelve’ less than zero

I think I’m scarred for life. If you thought that the David Beckham nativity scene was a new low in celebrity worship, please do yourself a major favor and do not watch this movie. Poor cinematography, weak character development and an insipid plot that stops about halfway through the movie makes watching “Ocean’s Twelve” about as pleasant as a vasectomy.

The sequel to “Ocean’s Eleven” picks up three years later. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is happily remarried to his first wife, Tess (Julia Roberts), Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) has invested his share of the money stolen in their previous Las Vegas heist into the hotel business and the rest of the crew have all gone about their separate lives.

The movie begins with short vignettes detailing what each member of Ocean’s Eleven is up to, with each being interrupted by a visit from the man whose millions they stole, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia).

It seems Benedict has somehow figured out where each of the characters resides, and now he wants his money back with interest. The problem is that practically everyone has spent at least some (or even all) of their share of the money, so putting together the $190 million that Benedict demands in two weeks will not be an easy task.

Thus, they decide that they must all work together once again and pull off another heist to collect enough money to get Benedict off their backs. Because it’s now too risky to take jobs in America, Danny Ocean and company look for work in Amsterdam, where they meet Detective Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and find out exactly how Benedict managed to track them down.

This goes on for about the first ten minutes of the movie, after which point you can kiss plot and character development goodbye. Brad Pitt in particular seems to be rehashing Tyler Durden from “Fight Club” for some reason, while the other actors don’t actually offer any depth, or anything other than cliches, for that matter.

Also, director Steven Soderbergh has an annoying tendency to try to end each of the initial character vignettes with a punch line. The problem is that only about one in every four jokes in these segments manages to be funny. A .250 batting average just isn’t good enough with that many attempts at a comic home run.

It also doesn’t help that the plot basically ends at the one-hour mark. I do have to give the film’s screenwriter George Nolfi credit, as he did manage to come up with a particularly tough problem for Ocean and company to overcome. Generally, coming up with a lot of interesting obstacles should add to the suspense of a movie and draw the audience in, and this is clearly Nolfi’s intent.

There’s just a slight hitchNolfi doesn’t actually know how to write his way out of the jam any better than his characters.

His solution? An inside joke of such monumental absurdity and sheer, jaw-dropping bizarreness that it almost made me question the continued existence of the universe.

That’s what the backspace on the computer is for, George. If you’ve written yourself into a corner, admit it, go back and come up with something at least slightly more believable.

Since when has the idea been to make the audience scratch their heads instead of entertaining them? Since Soderbergh and Nolfi got it into their heads that plot takes a backseat to getting as many marquee names as possible on the movie poster, that’s when.

The list of things wrong with this movie doesn’t end there. Zeta-Jones is uninspired in her role as a Europol detective. The narrative jumps back and forth needlessly between past events and the present, which doesn’t do anything to help the already jumbled story.

And finally, the villain’s explanation of how he outsmarted Ocean and the rest doesn’t make sense, because the writers actually took the time earlier in the movie to explain why that plan wouldn’t work; that’s why the heroes didn’t try it themselves.

The bottom line is that this is yet another uninspired, assembly-line Hollywood sequel made to cash in on the success of the first movie. Honestly, the idea does have some merit, but the final product still looks more like a bunch of rich Hollywood actors getting together to have a good time and take your money in the process. If I wanted to watch a movie where the plot didn’t make sense, I would watch Orson Welles’ 1962 version of “The Trial.”

At least that film wasn’t supposed to make sense in the first place.

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