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The cards are against Al Pacino in "Ocean's Thirteen." They're also against the movie.

click to enlarge art24_film_oceans13_100.jpg

Don't get your hopes up that Al Pacino will elevate the latest in the "Ocean's" franchise. Screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien ("Rounders") paste together disjointed cartoon elements for Pacino's orange-tanned Willie Bank — a world-renowned hotel owner whose latest casino is a spiraling skyscraper — then leave him in the shadows for most of the movie.

Instead, the focus is on George Clooney and the rest of the well-dressed criminal crew, who are on hand to avenge Willie's ex-business partner (Elliott Gould). Even director Steven Soderbergh, famous for knowing where to put the camera, fails to convey the gears turning in Willie's egocentric brain. All we know is that Pacino's callous villain has an insatiable appetite for collecting — gasp! — Five Diamond Award ratings for his hotels. It's to this end that Danny Ocean's team throws cannons after monkey wrenches to make sure Willy's hotel fails the Five Diamond test by a mile.

Actually, cannons and wrenches have nothing on this menagerie of magnetizing powders, rigged slot machines and a giant drill — the last employed to dig the Chunnel between England and France. Opposite the mechanical contrivances are a couple of Jerry Lewis-type sequences involving David Paymer as a reserved Five Diamond Award evaluator and Carl Reiner as a phony evaluator that the hotel staff bends over backward to please. In another attempt at comedy, Matt Damon plays an upwardly mobile personal assistant to an international gambler who seduces Willie's otherwise skeptical assistant (Ellen Barkin) in a scene that seems like an out-take from an Austin Powers movie.

"Ocean's Thirteen" is a shiny but bloated popcorn movie that could put you to sleep before you get down to the bottom of the bag. Its story is a drone of white noise, color and empty spectacle punctuated by dead-end subplots that lead to a predictable backslapping conclusion. Like the suave crew it follows, it's a grifter, a moneymaker project that will bankroll serious films for Soderbergh, Clooney and perhaps Brad Pitt and Don Cheadle. You, the would-be audience member, might as well put on your finest evening dress or best suit, buy your movie ticket, skip the flick and go to the jazziest event in town. You'll have a lot more fun and be fitfully engaged in a tangible social activity rather than pretending you wish you'd shaken Sinatra's hand. (PG-13) 122 min. S

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