OCEAN'S TWELVE The new rat pack is back.

Ocean's Twelve
dir. Soderbergh
Open Fri Dec 10
Various Theaters

It's impossible not to like Ocean's Twelve.

Okay, not impossible, I guess--but it would be really, really hard. Movies like this are engineered to be liked--they aren't trying to change the world, or win awards, or really be anything more than exceedingly well done distractions. And every once in a while--especially when those movies turn out as good as this one--that's alright.

Picking up from 2001's Ocean's Eleven, Twelve follows the same formula for success: round up Hollywood's biggest stars, dress them sharply and have them act charming, and round it off with the confident, cool, and stylish direction of one of Hollywood's best, Steven Soderbergh.

Once again, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) unites his group of thieves--this time to repay the jilted rube they ripped off in Eleven, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). Benedict's none-too-subtly threatened to take them out, and in response, Ocean's gang heads overseas to score before Benedict's deadline. Soon, they stumble onto a huge heist--and a daring competition with Europe's top thief, François Toulour (Vincent Cassel). And then the double-crosses, sleight-of-hand, and slick montages enter in. (Also entering in is the same bang-up cast from Eleven--Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Carl Reiner, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould... shit, even Catherine Zeta-Jones and Bruce Willis show up.)

But if the stars--all of whom offer understated, assured performances--are the main attraction here, it's the smaller touches that make Twelve solid--like the distinctive, self-assured soundtrack from David Holmes, and George Nolfi's witty script, which never settles for merely providing excuses to show off the actors.

But the real star--as with Eleven--is Soderbergh. Twelve is an undeniably enjoyable example of one Hollywood's best directors having fun with Hollywood's biggest actors. And not only does the film serve as a welcome reminder that mainstream Hollywood still has something to offer, but it also offers some hope that one might not have to wait for another mega-cast/Soderbergh team-up for that faith to be repaid.

Yeah, right. That faith will undoubtedly be tried, ignored, and betrayed by Hollywood in the next few years. But at least it'll keep me going until Ocean's Thirteen.