Sequels and reboots can feel derivative, but occasionally, one will come around that feels more like a repeat-trip on your favorite theme park ride than a retread of a movie.
“Oceans 8” is that kind of sequel and reboot. It’s a movie whose form is familiar, but that’s precisely where its magic is: Its form — a light-hearted, complicated, surprising heist — is a blast to experience, even if you have experienced something similar before.
The truth is, I haven’t experienced this particular form as many times as I could have: I’ve seen the 2001 “Oceans Eleven” (which is itself a reboot of the 1960 version), but I haven’t seen either of its sequels, or even the original.
But “Oceans 8” is so good it has me wanting to pull those other entires out and see them. It left me hungry for more of this particular thing.
It takes a lot of craft to pull a good heist movie off. The screenwriting and direction have to be carefully constructed with the pizazz and misdirection of a good magic trick. Adding to the fun in this series is a ridiculously packed cast of all-stars and a jazzy score, which this time is by Daniel Pemberton.
The cast in this particular case is touted as “all female,” which does provide something new to think about with this series (there’s one line of dialogue that points out that women being overlooked in society can work to the advantage of career criminals), but mostly what is notable about this cast is not their gender but their collective amazingness: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson and Awkwafina all do extraordinary work here.
Nobody is playing simplified cardboard cut-outs. Sandra Bullock brings a depth to her performances as a career criminal, and each of the supporting players have distinct personalities and complexities. I especially noticed Helena Bonham Carter’s take on her character, who, as a world-renowned designer, is not as adept at the life of crime as the characters played by Bullock or Blanchett are, and Bonham Carter shows that hesitation without making her at all weak.
Mindy Kaling is a hilarious comic actress, and I was happy to see her get laugh lines in this film. Everybody is great in this thing.
The plot is simple (before it gets complex, that is): After a little over five years in prison, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) has had plenty of time to plan the perfect heist: to steal a diamond necklace valued at $150 million. To see the intricacies of that plan play out are the reason we go to the movies, and they are deliciously fun to watch here.
Superheroes may have a corner on the market of summer movies (and of sequels and reboots, for that matter), but “Oceans 8” is a perfect summer movie: It’s fun, light and smart. It doesn’t spend its money on big computer effects, because the only bombast it cares about is the kind that comes from watching big Hollywood stars do their thing all together.
It’s an absolute joy.
Director: Gary Ross
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, James Corden
Running time: 1 hour, 50 min
Rating: PG-13 for language, drug use, and some suggestive content