This gender-swapped reboot sees Danny Ocean’s newly paroled sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) rounding up a team of con women to steal a $150 million necklace at the Met Gala. Making the plot about jewellery for the sake of female characters and audiences seems lazy if not outright offensive, but in keeping at least with the superficiality of the franchise. The film’s bare-minimum feminism is strictly representational, and yet it doesn’t seem to understand what that means, since Debbie says they’re doing the heist “for the eight-year-old girl dreaming of being a criminal” – surely the stupidest line Sandra Bullock has uttered since “Sure I’ll do Bird Box.”
As the female George Clooney and Brad Pitt, Bullock and Cate Blanchett are suitably sparkling, with likeable support from Awkwafina (The Farewell), Helena Bonham Carter and Rihanna as a hacker called Nine Ball. When asked her real name she replies “Eight Ball” and everybody looks a bit confused. Later the crew spikes Anne Hathaway’s soup with laxatives to create a diversion. Even for an Ocean’s movie, a series synonymous with shallowness, this is lightweight.
Missing nearly all the marks that one expects from the franchise (comedy, style and plot), Ocean’s 8 is a wallpaper caper missing that Steven Soderbergh spark, its only twist being that they’re women. Like last year’s Hustlers and the Charlie’s Angels reboot, there seems to be a sense among Hollywood execs that female-fronted comedies can coast on the sheer novelty of featuring women. As for Ocean’s 8, it either assumes women won’t be able to follow too complex a story or is written by people too dumb to think of one. That eight-year-old girl will just have to keep dreaming.