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Movie Review: "Ocean's Twelve"

2004 appears to be the year for sequels that are better than the original.

I speak of Spider-Man 2 and Shrek 2, both of which exceeded the #1 of the series... and now Ocean's Twelve, which of course is not the twelfth movie in the series, but the second, after 2001's "Ocean's Eleven", which was a remake of the Rat Pack film of the same name made in 1960.

It's rare for a sequel to get the entire original cast back, but they did it for "Twelve", and that's one of the reasons this film works so well. You already know the characters and their relationships, and they can pick up right where they left off...

Which is, in fact, exactly what they do. After a brief "prequel" which purports to be right after the original, establishing the relationship between Brad Pitt's character and a new member of the cast, a cop played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, the movie moves quickly, showing Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the casino boss who's still pissed that Ocean's 11 ripped him off, wants his money back and one-by-one threatens each of the original eleven, telling him they have two weeks to get him his money, with interest.

OK, there's the setup. They get together, figure out that they're too "hot" to do another job in the USA, so off to Amsterdam and Rome they go, with gorgeous European scenery shots (and one of the weirdest plane-landing sequences you'll ever see), and then...

Well, I can't really say much more without spoiling the whole thing. Suffice to say that a little more than halfway through the film, most of Ocean's crew is in prison, and the movie seems to sit there and do nothing and you're thinking, "Damn! This is boring!" There's some of Zeta-Jones being a good cop, and something about a French master thief, and you're thinking, what does this have to do with anything?

Which is, of course, exactly the moment at which this becomes madcap comedy. Tess (Julia Roberts), Danny's wife, who appears in the opening scenes and then vanishes, is suddenly brought back into the plot... but I can't tell you how, because that'd ruin the whole thing. Suffice to say that it involves Bruce Willis.

And there's a scene on a train, that lasts only a few seconds, between two of the "Twelve", one wearing a Red Sox cap and one wearing a Yankees cap... there was a ton of delayed laughter at the screening I attended after this scene, showing how delicious this was, and it is key to the plot, believe it or not.

It's funny, and there's good chase scenes, and the music is fabulous, and of course, they've left an opening for "Ocean's 13", if they want to.

Better than the original. Steven Soderbergh does it again.

AYRating: *** 1/2