Thieves in the movies — master thieves — exist on a plane above the rest of us. They take their own routes into buildings, on their own timetables, using special equipment like lasers and pulleys and grappling hooks to get near the prized object. What Ocean's Twelve recognizes is that celebrities, beautiful celebrities, occupy the same higher dimensions. They come and go as they please, escorted directly to the objects of their desire after nothing more than a phone call, regardless of what queues may exist on the museum's front steps. No lasers, no pulleys, and no waiting required. The eleven or twelve thieves in this movie know that the place to be when the unwashed masses are clogging the freeway is the limo lane, because the only thing that could stop a celebrity would be another one of the same rank, a flanking celebrity, whose sheer force of will could, and nearly does, bring the entire operation to a halt.
Director Steven Soderbergh and screenwritier George Nolfi are juggling too many characters, cities, and plot twists to generate any momentum, and doling out the right number of snarky one-liners to a cast this size must be a full-time job. Despite all the sparks, Soderbergh has generated a bigger blaze from his stars in earlier movies, my favorite being The Limey, where Peter Fonda's persona and John Boorman's Point Blank are reanimated to great effect. But since then Soderbergh, like his thieves, has learned the best way into the building; the Ocean's Twelve teaser trailer was little more than a list of names. The movie's final and most absurd twist, a cheat by most measures, merely acknowledges that the next logical step for a band of movie thieves is to become an acting troupe.