Thursday, December 31, 2015

"Ocean's 11" vs. "Ocean's Eleven"

Three night's ago, in anticipation of New Year's Eve, we decided to watch the 1960 Frank Sinatra - Dean Martin - and the Rest of the Rat Pack movie, "Ocean's 11".  As you recall, the plot of this movie involved a caper to heist five Las Vegas casinos on New Year's Eve, so the timing was appropriate.  After watching that, we were prompted the following night to watch the 2001 remake, "Ocean's Eleven", that starred George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon.

So, he question, Which version was better?, prompts this Grandstander piece.


The Sinatra version, fifty-five years after it was released, seems a bit dated and simplistic.  I mean, honestly, even in 1960, is it reasonable to think that the entire electronic workings of a Las Vegas casino was controlled in an electrical box no larger that an average home medicine cabinet?  Or that access to such electrical boxes were guarded by a single Paul Blart-type guard?

Also, the dialogue was ridiculous at points, my favorite example being the scene where Richard Conte get some bad news from a doctor after an exam.  Conte looks at the Doc and utters this classic bit of movie cliche-speak:  "Give it to me straight, Doc.  Is it he big casino?"  And Akim Tamiroff?  Whoa, talk about over acting and chewing the scenery.

What this movie did have was star power.  Sinatra, Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Angie Dickenson.  It didn't get much bigger than that, not in 1960 and not in 2016, either.  And in a bit part, we even get to see a very young Shirley MacLaine making her motion picture debut.  It is a known fact that while this movie was being filmed during the day on location in Vegas, Sinatra, Martin, Davis and the rest of the Rat Pack were performing in the various showrooms and lounges of Las Vegas, so much of this movie comes across as a bit of a vanity piece wherein the stars were kind of going through the motions.  A scene where Frank, Dean, Sammy,and Lawford were shooting pool was purely the four stars showing off by riffing with each other about nothing, and it advanced the plot not one bit.

(By the way, on a personal note, this movie gave me a whole new appreciation for Dean Martin as an actor.  His speech where he told the guys that they were crazy for even thinking of doing such a thing was great.  He was the best part of the movie, I think.)

All that aside, seeing the planning and pulling off of the caper made for a lot of fun.  And this movie has something that the 2001 version did not, and that was a punchline of an ending that was completely unseen and absolutely perfect.  

So, how about that remake?



Like the original, this one had star power galore.  In addition to Clooney, Pitt, and Damon, add to the mix Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Elliott Gould, and the great Carl Reiner, and you have the proverbial all-star cast.  This one also involved a caper plot to knock off three big Las Vegas casinos, but a look at the electronics and the security in place at the casinos presented a much more realistic view of what Danny Ocean's crew was up against.  Of course, actually pulling off such a caper is no doubt just as far fetched for Clooney's Ocean as it was for Sinatra's.

And speaking of far-fetched, in both movies, members of the crew were able to get jobs at the various casinos with no problem.  Hell, Dean Martin had a gig singing in one of the hotel lounges!  And in the 2001 version, some of the people had different jobs during the same shifts in the same casino.  It can't be that easy to get employment in Vegas, can it?

Okay, so forget all about the implausibility of it all.  As Alfred Hitchcock once said, "It's only a movie", so put aside all thoughts about what's realistic and enjoy both of these flicks just for the sheer fun of them, and make no mistake, both movies are fun, so by all means, watch and enjoy both of them.  However, if you forced me at gunpoint to say which was better, I'm going to say Clooney's 2001 "Ocean's Eleven".

I suspect that many will disagree, and ain't that a kick in the head?

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