Oceans of fun with this dozen

Star-packed 'Ocean's Twelve' is even better than the first film.

It's a double whammy, and almost nobody but Steven Soderbergh could have pulled it off. The original whammy came in 2001, when Mr. Soderbergh remade "Ocean's Eleven," an all-but-forgotten caper comedy of 1960, and turned the unlikely stunt into a smash.

"Ocean's Twelve" isn't just a double whammy, it's a whammy squared - a goofy, stylish heist movie that'll steal moviegoers from other pictures as surely as Danny Ocean and his dirty dozen will get their hands on the Fabergé egg they've decided to filch.

The action commences when Ocean's associates start receiving visits from a Las Vegas gambling boss who's angry over being ripped off by them, and scary enough to make them decide they'd better pay him back, with interest.

The result is a plan for burglaries in three European cities - a variation on the "Ocean's Eleven" scheme of knocking off three casinos at once.

Of course many things go wrong, which is where much of the movie's fun comes from. I don't want to give away the story's secrets, but my favorite subplot arises when Julia Roberts's character (Ocean's long-suffering wife, who expands the gang from 11 to 12) has to create a distraction.

But enough. You should see "Ocean's Twelve" with as little foreknowledge as possible so you'll get the full benefit of its surprises.

Not that every scene is surprising. Some come perilously close to caper-movie clichés - and some are truly trite, as when yet another crook does yet another snake-dance to evade a network of motion-detection devices. Couldn't director Soderbergh and screenwriter George Nolfi have been more inventive, or more decisive about leaving such hackneyed stuff on the cutting-room floor?

These moments aside, the movie is frolicsome fun, with a superb cast led by George Clooney as the title character, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt as key members of his mob, and Ms. Roberts in her best-ever comic performance. With talents like these in top form, an occasional cliché doesn't matter much.

Rated PG-13; contains vulgar language.

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