[box cover]

Ocean's Eleven: Special Edition

Warner Home Video

Starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon,
Julia Roberts, Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould,
Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, and Andy Garcia

Written by Ted Griffin
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

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Review by Betsy Bozdech                    

"Sometimes people call movies a 'ride,' and that always bugs me for some reason. But this is the first movie I've ever been in — probably the last — where I actually think it is a ride."

Matt Damon (Linus) on Ocean's Eleven

"This is the greatest movie I've ever seen, even with Clooney."

A tongue-in-cheek Brad Pitt (Rusty)

Right now, Steven Soderbergh could probably film himself (with a hand-held camera, natch) reading the phonebook and have audiences falling all over themselves to get to the theater. With a career that's bigger and more impressive than Julia Roberts' Erin Brockovich-ized bustline, the box-office-friendly auteur behind Traffic, Out of Sight, and sex, lies, and videotape is unquestionably Hollywood's "It" director.

His increasingly frequent partner in crime isn't exactly chopped liver, either; former ER stud George Clooney has successfully shed his TV skin and emerged as a savvy Tinseltown hipster, an old-school guy's guy for the new millennium.

Given that, how could the duo's slick, fast-paced, star-packed remake of the 1960 Rat Pack classic Ocean's Eleven — directed with glee by Soderbergh and acted with suave humor and intelligence by Clooney — fail? Easy — it couldn't. The pair's update of the flawed-but-beloved Sinatra-Martin-Lawford-Davis Jr. heist flick is everything that's fun about going to the movies: beautiful people, neon lights, witty banter, and a larger-than-life story.

*          *          *

The con is on as soon as Danny Ocean (Clooney) gets out of prison. After breaking parole and looking up his old friend and associate Rusty (Brad Pitt) — who, in one of the movie's most tongue-in-cheek sequences, is stuck teaching a gaggle of real-life TV actors like Topher Grace and Joshua Jackson how to play poker — Danny rounds up a crew to help him carry out his master plan: robbing three Las Vegas casinos on the same night to the tune of $150 million. Among the usual suspects are Cockney munitions expert Basher (Don Cheadle), goofy getaway drivers Turk and Virgil (Scott Caan and Casey Affleck), sullen pickpocket Linus (Matt Damon), wise-cracking inside man Frank (Bernie Mac), mousy tech whiz Livingston (Edward Jemison), veteran scammer Saul (Carl Reiner), supple contortionist Yen (Shaobo Qin), and loud-mouthed money-man Reuben (Elliott Gould). What Danny doesn't tell his recruits is that the job isn't just about business; the owner of one of the casinos, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), is now dating Danny's ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts).

Basically, Soderbergh and his casting director hit the talent jackpot, and you can tell that everyone involved in the movie knows — the cast seems universally thrilled to be sharing the screen with each other. Pitt and Clooney in particular appear to delight in their scenes together, lobbing Ted Griffin's rapid-fire dialogue back and forth across the net like seasoned Wimbledon champs. Caan and Affleck are also stand-outs in their relatively minor parts; their constant bickering and odd-couple chemistry offer some of the movie's biggest laughs. Old hands Reiner and Gould both steal their scenes, and Mac is, as always, outstanding. One of the only actor who isn't put to particularly good use is Roberts; her functions as the token female/love interest seem to be to stand around looking pretty and to transfer her affections as frequently as she changes costumes.

But, frankly, she doesn't seem to care — like Soderbergh, Clooney, and the rest of the gang, she's in it to have fun, not to win an Oscar (besides, she's been there and done that). And if you go into Ocean's Eleven with the same expectations, you'll have fun, too. Sure, the plot twists tend to verge on the preposterous, and most of the characters are types we've met before (Jemison's "computer guy" nerd is particularly clichéd), but as escapist high-stakes heist movies go, they don't get much better (or hipper) than this.

*          *          *

Fittingly for a movie that's as much about cool costumes and the flashing lights of the strip as it is story and character, Ocean's Eleven looks great on Warner Brothers' Special Edition DVD. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer (a separate full-screen DVD edition is also available) shows off Soderbergh's rich color palette and lush Vegas photography beautifully, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is strong and clear. (Other options include English 2.0, French Dolby Digital 5.1, and English, French, and Spanish subtitles.)

The disc sports a nice set of special features, too, which offer a thorough look at the film without going overboard on repetitive featurettes and other fillers. Though you won't find any deleted scenes (according to Soderbergh in his commentary track, almost everything they shot ended up in the movie), you will be able to while away a few hours with these goodies:

And, of course, there are trailers (the theatrical one and two teasers), DVD-ROM extras, and cast and crew credits with filmographies for the key stars, Soderbergh, and producer Jerry Weintraub.

— Betsy Bozdech

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