Ocean's 13 is a very good movie, but not a great movie -- it is the weakest of the three films, but not by much. It has some excellent sequences and scenes, but some of the pop and magic from 11 and 12 are missing, leaving you with the feeling that the whole thing is a little phoned in. Phoned in by geniuses, and so still pretty damn good, but phoned in nonetheless.
There is a sub-plot about a revolution at a Mexican factory that makes dice, infiltrated by one of our gang to rig the dice, that is quite fun. Ruben has a nice arc in which he rediscovers his old self -- with giant glasses and a ridiculous tux. Al Pachino is fun, and Elen Barken is an interesting addition; a single economical scene of her firing an employee over weight is all that is needed to establish her as someone who needs to be punished. There is a brilliant bit with Oprah that makes the whole film for me. The CGI building is a marvel, and a scene in which we quickly see shots of the inside of the building goes by too fast to take in, but the rooms are stunning. The overall plan to ruin Pachino by letting all the patrons win is a nice differentiation from the earlier two films. David Holmes's score is great, as it was for the first two films -- the score is a good percentage about what makes these films work, what really sells all the ridiculousness.
But some important aspects of 11 and 12 are missing. Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones, for one thing. The cameos for another: earlier films had Topher Grace (easily the best scene in 12, and a great moment in 11), Bruce Willis, and Eddie Izzard. Here Izzard is promoted to a bigger role; he was only ever funny because he was playing himself. In this film he has more lines -- and this is completely absurd -- than Pitt does, most of them early on, when the audience needs to be sucked in, not thrown back on themselves; the fact that Izzard is a ham and a bad actor works for 12, which short circuits actors and characters; it works much less well in 13. The banter Casey Affleck and James Caan's son (I cannot remember his name and Sara keeps calling him Kahn Jr) was great in 11 and 12; there is only one good exchange between the two in this movie, and I wanted more. 12 had great meta-dialogue about, for example, Clooney's age; the meta dialogue about Clooney's weight and Pitt's kids seems forced at the end of this film. There are some jokes that revolve around the word "Wang" that are less than great. The third time around, you can feel the twists coming.
While the weakest of the Soderbergh Ocean's films, Ocean's 13 is part of a series of summer blockbuster films that are the third in a series -- Spiderman, Pirates, Schreck, Bourne. I have an inchoate feeling that Ocean's 13 is playing games with its position as a blockbuster (something Slate wrote about). It is a less that perfect Ocean's film, but a great summer movie.