Ocean's Twelve opened to enormous success, picking moviegoer pockets to the tune of $39.2 million in its first weekend, largely due to the popularity of its predecessor, Ocean's Eleven, and to the fame of its all-star cast, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Don Cheadle, and a few superstars making surprise appearances.

This latest in a year full of heist movies provides amusing entertainment in the form of confident performances, poker-faced punchlines, elaborately choreographed robberies, stylish cinematography, and a good deal of Hollywood in-joking.

Christian viewers are responding to the sequel with the same differences of opinion that they demonstrated for Ocean's Eleven. To those who took the film seriously, it was an offensive glorification of thievery, ego, and greed. To those who accepted it as tongue-in-cheek goofing from a bunch of Hollywood jokers, it provided decent escapist entertainment.

Heist movies are a genre that is popular partly because audiences love to solve a puzzle, and each heist movie poses its characters an interesting challenge—how to crack a safe, how to remove items from high-security locations, how to outwit the guards. It's the excitement of breaking codes, of executing clever maneuvers, of sleight-of-hand. Unfortunately, this movie's heist becomes so convoluted, so overpopulated, that it's easy to become disoriented and even totally lost.

But Soderbergh is smart enough to wink at the audience over the hedonism, recklessness, and greed of his characters, so much so that at one point one of the more conscientious crooks expresses dismay that his colleagues would ever consider robbing a disabled person. The actors have excellent chemistry, bringing to life characters that are brilliant at burglary and foolish in life. There's far too little of Bernie Mac, but Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Matt Damon all seem as worthy of top billing as Clooney, whose role is considerably reduced here. A de-glamorized Julia Roberts gets caught up in one of the most inspired and zany sequences of the year, where she's asked to impersonate a famous actress. French superstar Vincent Cassel is a fine addition to the mix; he gets to show off some acrobatic moves in a memorable security-busting scene.

But if viewed naively by those who will be attracted to the attitudes, values, and lifestyles of the characters, the film could be misleading. The cocky, ego-driven "heroes" seem to live for the thrill of their criminal activity far more than for any kind of prize.

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Lisa Ann Cockrel (Christianity Today Movies) raves, "What we need is a good story full of characters we love, characters we hate, intrigue, and witty dialogue. Ocean's Twelve has all these things in spades. To cite standout performances in Ocean's Twelve would basically be to read the cast list. It looks like everyone had a lot of fun making this movie, which I hope was indeed the case—because I'm already eagerly awaiting Ocean's Thirteen."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) disagrees, calling it "an over-padded, sleep-inducing bore … a sinking ship of a sequel. The script … is cumbersome and complicated. The set-up takes too long to establish and the payoff is incomplete and unsatisfying. Of the cast, Matt Damon and Vincent Cassel seem to be the only ones working at portraying a character. The rest seem content to ride the celebrity train and collect their high dollar paycheck for simply walking in front of the camera."

Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) says, "The plot takes a long time to get rolling. [The] conclusion is not only improbable, but falls outside the parameters of 'fair game' for heist movies.Instead of letting the audience in on the twist, allowing them to look back and see what they overlooked in an 'aha!' moment, it makes us feel cheated." She also criticizes the character development, but counts "more than a few laughs.At least it's a film that doesn't take itself too seriously."

Tom Neven (Plugged In) says, "It contains so many leaps of logic and improbable plot developments (not to mention several unanswered questions) that by the end you're left shaking your head in confusion. (If you're still awake.) In the end the crooks get away [with] their crime." He goes on to elaborate on details of the film's conclusion, which lead to "a real crime of a moral."

Brett Willis (Christian Spotlight) says, "For most people, it will be a lighter, more enjoyable outing than the original. But for the minority who can't distinguish between drama and real life, it could be even more damaging. The acting is uniformly good, even though the plot is ridiculous and full of holes. But the film is just plain missing something."

Mainstream critics can't decide whether to applaud this posse of movie stars or arrest them.

More reviews of recent releases

Blade: Trinity: Suffering through the latest installment in the popular Blade vampire/action franchise, Christopher Lyon (Plugged In) says that director David Goyer "lightens the tone a bit by reaching more for humor and straight-ahead action sequences than for apocalypse and darkness. The action is as bloody as ever, but this outing delivers more car chases, explosions and fight scenes than previous ones. Meaning that the film accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do—use graphic violence, graphic language, crude humor and an unchallenging plot to capture its target audience for a forgettable 105 minutes."

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Lori Souder (Christian Spotlight) says, "I could hardly wait until it was over. This movie was a total waste of time—nothing remotely entertaining or worthwhile. Blade: Trinity was a big disappointment after the other two movies which I thought had well written plots and somewhat believable characters."

National Treasure: Josh Hurst (Reveal) writes, "There is far too little wit and imagination on display to give National Treasure the same spark that made Pirates of the Caribbean such a delight. But it does offer enough adrenaline-rush action adventure to make it well worth catching at a matinee. Who knew that history could be so much fun?"

A Very Long Engagement: J. Robert Parks (Phantom Tollbooth) says, "It's a strange combination—dreamy love story and brutal trench warfare—and it doesn't always work. Though I appreciated the idea of contrasting the joys of romance with the dirty details of war, the execution left a lot to be desired … [The] movie sometimes feels scatter-shot and unfocused. Nonetheless, there's much to like in A Very Long Engagement."

Sideways:Andrew Coffin (World) says, "Director Alexander Payne is not without talent, and it's easy to see why mainstream critics are so enamored with this film. Sideways is a well-observed, sometimes subtle comedy—unfortunately it's also a miserable story. Most critics would like you to believe that these scenes make worthwhile wallowing in the depravity of these sad, pathetic characters. But it's simply not true."

Next week: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and Spanglish.