When a movie gets pushed off its originally scheduled release, it’s usually a bad sign. In the case of Masterminds, it’s more complicated. This is one of the many films that got caught up in Relativity Media’s bankruptcy proceedings last year, just now coming out after getting bumped from last summer. And, as it turns out, it’s pretty good.
Although admittedly it’s far from a new classic. It’s a true-crime comedy in the vein of Pain & Gain, but crossing a Napoleon Dynamite vibe — courtesy of director Jared Hess and two co-writers Chris Bowman and Hubbel Palmer — with Saturday Night Live — home to most of the cast and third writer Emily Spivey. The “dumb criminals” bit skews closer to Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy than Michael Bay’s meditation on the American Dream Gone Awry. But I have to admit I laughed pretty consistently through it all, and what more can you ask from a comedy?
Speaking of McCarthy, she’s the only one from this summer’s Ghostbusters core foursome not to show up in Masterminds. Kristen Wiig is the most prominent here, as Kelly Campbell, the woman who convinces David Scott Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) to pull off one of the biggest cash robberies in American history at the behest of her friend Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson). But Kate McKinnon shows up as David’s fiancée, Jandice, and Leslie Jones is the eye-rolling FBI agent assigned to the case. They’ve certainly been brought forward in the marketing since the original release date, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the movie was recut a bit to give them more screen time and capitalize on their rising popularity.
Other than its size, the 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery was pretty straightforward. Or, I should say, the one in October was. In March a driver had stolen $18.8 million and skipped to Mexico, which is what gave Steve the idea. David loaded up $17.3 million on the evening of October 4 and brought it to Steve and the gang, who sent him off to Cozumel. The rest of the gang quickly dropped their plan to control their spending, and Steve evidently decided that David was a loose end and hired Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis) to head down to Mexico and kill him.
All of this transfers pretty smoothly to the movie, punched up for comedy’s sake. Steve insists on hiding his identity from David; Kelly starts feeling sorry for him and becomes a liability herself; David escapes both Mike and the Federales to return for a climactic confrontation. The script has generous patches of “schtick goes here” to allow for Galifianakis and the rest of the cast to ham it up.
Masterminds can feel overstuffed in its hurry to get on to the next bit in case the last one didn’t land, and there’s plenty that doesn’t. But enough does work to keep me interested. It’s dumb as hell, and probably leans a bit too hard on the “wrong kind of white people” stereotypes, but what it lacks in wits it makes up for in affability. If it had come out on schedule, nobody would remember it by now, but it does make for a nice break and it certainly delivers the most bangs for your buck this weekend.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel-Wallace Test fail.