The favorable trend as of late is the recurring gimmick of gender-switching casting in films of previous familiarity. The craze was recently ignited — seemingly — by the 2016 Paul Feig-directed “Ghostbusters” estrogen-driven remake to this year’s earlier released “Overboard” remake with Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez demonstrating the sex role reversal routine. So who was really surprised to see a band of opportunistic females take the place of their male counterparts and pull off a high-stakes robbery in the sequel, Ocean’s 8?
There is no doubt co-writer/director Gary Ross’ (“The Hunger Games”) glossy reboot is stylish and slick with its star-studded main female cast boasting three Academy Award-winning actresses (Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side,” Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine,” and Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables”) and a recycled foundation of an imagined heist story stretching back to the heyday of Frank Sinatra in the early 1960s to George Clooney in the early 2000s. Rounding out his X-chromosome charged, comedy crime vehicle, Ross enlists TV darling Mindy Kaling, acclaimed actress Sarah Paulson, singing sensations Rihanna and Awkwafina, and Oscar nominee, Helena Bonham Carter to lend a manicured hand.
Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, the ex-con sister of the allegedly late Danny Ocean (George Clooney’s character from “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Ocean’s Thirteen”). In the aftermath of her incarceration, Debbie decides to get back into the swindling racket for a grand payoff. The payoff in question: Stealing an elusive $150 million Cartier necklace and, as an added bonus, exacting revenge on her double-crossing, duplicitous ex-lover Claude Becker (Richard Armitage, “Alice Through the Looking Glass”).
Once Debbie reunites with her well-dressed and kooky partner-in-crime Lou (Blanchett), the assembling of the crew is a drawn-out affair that methodically parades a who’s who of her cunning comrades. Nine Ball (Rihanna, “Battleship”) is the team’s handy computer hacker. Tammy (Paulson, “The Post”) acts as a stolen goods expert when not toiling as a suburban wife and mother. Amita (Kaling, “The Night Before”) is the resident jewelry maker of the group. Rose Weil (Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech”) is the fashion designer on stand-by. Constance (Awkwafina, “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”) is a skateboarding artist versed in trickery. Finally, spoiled actress Daphne Kluger (Hathaway) is utilized as the key source in making the switch of the aforementioned jewelry from the Met Gala.
Granted that Ocean’s 8 has its moments of exuberance in terms of its glitzy aura of exotic settings, eye-popping costumes and outfits, impish adventurous shenanigans and cameos laced with veteran performers such as film series’ crossover Elliott Gould (he returns as Reuben Tishkoff). Plus, the stunt casting of a mixture of A-lister actresses, singers and comediennes in this flashy spectacle is a welcomed novelty to a certain extent. However, Ross’ exploration into the “Ocean” universe, particularly with heavy hitters such as Bullock featured at the helm, should have been more engaging and penetrating. Reasonably, the film is atmospheric in its lighthearted wit and tension, but we never get a distinctive feeling of suspense or charm that wildly differentiates from the male-dominated Steven Soderbergh-directed films other than the angle that these pretty mischievous misfits are out to perfect a hustle against New York’s most famous.
Bullock’s Ocean and her on-screen cohorts collectively seem to have a bouncy blast, but the summertime showcase does not offer much in the way of originality. Sure, Ocean’s 8 has an instant gratification of cheekiness that is somewhat enjoyable in the moment. Too bad co-writers Ross and Olivia Milch can only muster up a spotty heist blockbuster that can’t creatively match the shine of the diamond necklace Debbie Ocean and her sticky finger associates want to abscond so strategically.