They've got their ring-a-ding-ding back.
"Ocean's Thirteen" brings back our latter-day Rat Pack and restores the Pitt Pack's pizzazz and panache. It's a funny, chummy movie that is every bit as over-plotted, absurd and indulgent as "Ocean's Twelve." The big improvement? This time the ham is served on wry.
Danny Ocean's mentor (Elliott Gould) has been wronged. So Danny, Rusty and the lads - played with bemused bonhomie by Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Shaobo Qin and Eddie Jemison - resolve to pool their ill-gotten gains and take a year or so to take down the casino magnate (Al Pacino) who rooked the old man out of his primo Vegas real estate.
The heist, which will loot the new glitz palace called The Bank (Willie Bank is the Pacino characters' name), is so complex it has to be laid out to a master crook consultant (Eddie Izzard).
"Run it for me," he says.
Explaining is what everybody does a lot of in this movie. It's a huge shortcoming - exposition, exposition, exposition. But Clooney made "Syriana" and "The Good German" before this. What do you expect?
But first, they try to reason with the crook, who isn't to be reasoned with.
"I don't lose," Pacino purrs, making weak dialogue sing. "People who bet against me lose."
Months and months of planning take us underground for a tunnel excavation involving the drills used to build the Chunnel, then into Mexico, where Affleck, in full Frito Bandito mustache, foments revolt among workers at a Mexican dice factory, and to Europe, where Matt Damon appears to have squeezed in a scene or two after starting production on the next "Bourne" movie.
Dizzying amounts of money are discussed. Small cons set up the big one. Weaknesses are sought. (Ellen Barkin, as Willie Bank's assistant, is one. She's ill-dressed and ill-used here.)
And the heist begins. Not that we have all the information we need. We're given hints, but they don't tip their hand completely.
Director Steven Soderbergh got his '60s vibe back for this one. It's a nostalgic movie, both for Vegas the way it used to be, and the original Rat Pack (Sinatra's name is invoked with reverence). Darned if the guys don't seem a little misty-eyed over the end of the "Ocean's" trilogy. Or are those just leftover tears from a repeated Oprah-makes-me-cry gag, a shameless kiss-up to the lady who helps sell their tickets.
We get a real taste of why these actors do these movies. It's not just about the money. They've got rapport, and they love playing their patter with tough-guy timing.
Rusty (Pitt): "You don't think he ..."
Danny (Clooney): "He had to."
Rusty: "Oh boy."
Almost everybody from the first two movies takes a role (no Julia Roberts or Catherine Zeta Jones), so the picture is awfully cluttered, even in those moments Soderbergh doesn't give us six different images in split screen.
But it's great fun watching Affleck and Caan talk treason to Mexican factory workers, hearing ancient Carl Reiner titter through a fake English accent, watching poor David Paymer (as the critic sent to "rate" the new hotel, and comically tortured by Ocean's crew) suffer.
Lucky "Thirteen"? It just might be. In any case, here, at last, is a big summer sequel that delivers the goods.