Behold the meta-blockbuster: there’s barely a scene in Ocean’s Thirteen that Steven Soderbergh doesn’t jazz up with texture-emphasizing zooms and pans, superimpositions and split-screens, or color grading; almost merging the blockbuster and the experimental film (Dog Star Man meets Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?), his offhand film-snob fun underscores the movie-star larking that is this heist series’ raison d’etre. As in a blockbuster, or avant-garde film, or lark (and Oceans Eleven and Twelve), the plot is busy and negligible: something about Clooney, Pitt, Damon, et al (their characters have names, but really now…) getting together to score big at desert rat Al Pacino’s new casino, in retribution for his violation of some Rat Pack code of hombre honor, but mostly a framework on which to hang digressions and star turns, suspending the audience in a state of rapt befuddlement. (Inevitably, with so much business to juggle, people are frozen out: Eddie Izzard’s “Guest Star” turn mostly consists of waiting around for something to do.)
If smugness is the likely pitfall for a flimflam charmer built on quips, inside jokes, and sharkskin suits, it manifests itself here in a boys-club atmosphere occasionally veering into the ungallant. (Previous anchors Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones are tossed-off absentees; as Pacino’s right-hand woman, Ellen Barkin does fine slapstick work in the service of a no-girls-allowed subplot.) Then again, the best gags in the film suggest a self-aware social conscience: the irony of a movie (and, by extension, lifestyle) as lavishly appointed as this advancing an altruistic agenda juices the absurdist spectacle of Ben Affleck’s brother and James Caan’s son fomenting a workers’ rebellion in a Mexican factory.
Opens June 8