Ocean’s 8 has a steep hill to climb. It acts as a mostly unconnected spinoff to the Ocean’s trilogy. Having to soft reboot the franchise with a new cast seems like it could be a risky idea. But, it begs an interesting question: what do audiences want from an Ocean’s movie? Is it integral to have the same cast members? Or, does the Ocean’s franchise work as long as we have competent and charming characters using their unique talents to pull off a difficult heist?
Ocean’s 8 gives us a pretty definite answer.
It’s All About the Actors
Here’s a dirty secret about the Ocean’s movies: the characters don’t actually matter. People don’t come to these movies because they are invested in the character of Linus Caldwell. They watch these films because they like seeing Matt Damon play that character. The same is true of Ocean’s 8. This is a stellar ensemble of eminently watchable actresses who are all having a blast. Yes, Sandra Bullock is playing the sister of Danny Ocean but that’s so tangential that it really doesn’t matter. What matters is Bullock’s confidence and unflappable coolness.
The same goes for everyone else in the main cast. Standouts include a delightfully flighty Helena Bonham Carter as a down-and-out fashion designer, and Anne Hathaway as the overly emotional actress that the crew takes advantage of in order to obtain a valuable necklace. Honestly, the entire group is firing on all cylinders. While some members get more time to shine than others, this is still a great group to spend two hours with. And though that does mean a few integral characters come across as underdeveloped, it doesn’t alter how enjoyable they are in the film.
Light Fun That Leans Into Itself
What’s also important to know about the Ocean’s films is that they are as airy as the breeze. However, they know this and play with their fluffy nature at every opportunity. Ocean’s 8 is no exception. This is a movie where Cate Blanchett gets to fire off a soap bubble gun while remaining completely stone-faced. And it kills! There is such a nifty understanding of tone in Ocean’s 8 and that keeps the entire piece feeling comfortably minor.
This isn’t a film that places huge narrative importance on its existence. Sure, there are connections to the mythology of the Ocean’s series, but Ocean’s 8 doesn’t pretend like those connections are super important. Instead, it simply picks up the formula and structure of its franchise and does its thing. That keeps the adventure accessible to new viewers while also remaining true to the spirit of the previous films.
No Surprises (Except the Ones You Expect)
If there is one prominent issue with Ocean’s 8, it’s that the film is so adherent to the franchise’s structure that there really aren’t any twists or turns that you can’t see coming. We won’t spoil any of the surprises, but this is a series that has deeply established how it goes about tricking its audience. You aren’t going to be truly shocked at anything that happens in Ocean’s 8 in regards to the plot or the heist. There is one detail that feels like a purposeful anti-surprise but it also helps establish this new part of the series as its own entity.
But, Ocean’s 8 — and the Ocean’s franchise in general — is like watching an incredibly talented magician performing a trick that you know the secrets to. It doesn’t make it less impressive but it does remove you from any genuine astonishment. You appreciate and respect the craft on display, but you aren’t wowed by it. That’s not bad but it is worth mentioning.
Is Ocean’s 8 Good?
Ocean’s 8 is breezy, light-hearted, and expertly constructed. Though staples of the series keep it from being exceptional, it churns out laughs and fun at a nonstop pace. When it comes to making marshmallowy entertainment for the masses, this is how you do it. If you need a guaranteed smile, Ocean’s 8 is as safe a bet as you can place.