STARRING: ZACH GALIFINIAKIS; KRISTEN WIIG; OWEN WILSON; KATE MCKINNON
DIRECTED BY: JARED HESS
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
There are no title cards, nothing to tell the audience what year the story takes place, and only a brief second where it's revealed that Masterminds is based on a true story. The supported evidence is the 1997 robbery of a Charlotte, North Carolina Loomis, Fargo armored car. It was officially deemed by news reports as “the hillbilly heist”. Now, director Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) has turned it into a comedy that flies by the seat of its pants. This is a strange, somewhat fascinating comedy, that actually digs up some lower belly laughs. I can't say everyone or even anyone will find it hilarious, but the silly character performances from Zach Galifiniakis and Kristen Wiig are alive with wit, making Masterminds at least something to see. I know, high praise right?
Have I mentioned that this movie is weird? Well...that's an understatement. Galifiniakis plays David Ghantt, a simple man, working as a guard for the armored car company and looks like a combination of Captain Kangaroo and Steve Irwin. He's decked out in hiked up shorts and a beauty school dropout haircut that is funny from just one look. Miserably content with his job and with bride-to-be Jandice (Kate McKinnon-creepy to perfection) strong-holding him to a wedding, David finds comfort in his crush of a co-worker Kelly (Kristen Wiig, who seems to enjoy being a background player). Love makes us do funny things, so it's easy for Kelly and her Zuba pant wearing creep friend Steve (Owen Wilson) to convince David to rob the company vault of 17 million dollars. This leads to David fleeing to Mexico with 20 thousand in his underpants and being double crossed when a pencil thin mustached hitman (Jason Sudeikis) is sent to take him out. Collectively, these characters have minds, but they are yet to master anything.
As a piece of art, it's quite obvious that Masterminds was made by the same person who directed Napoleon Dynamite. A story like this and the oddness of these characters fit so well, that if they didn't really exist, Hess would of eventually made it up himself. The style of characters, with mullets and mom jeans, gels with the screenplay- written by Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, and SNL-writer Emily Spivey. The writing doesn’t go for gut bursting laughs, but treats what was a real life situation with a semi-serious tone, allowing the talented cast of comedy stars a chance to have fun by playing with the material. Each scene is brightly lit, looking like a skit from Mr. Show or Strangers With Candy, which could be the films low-budget, or even intentional. They do, however, leave room for over the top gags that fail to land, like when Montezuma's Revenge hits David in a pool, which feels like Hess testing the audience if they are still interested. It's a difficult film to enjoy, but the mix of wild characters and a heist gone wrong make it impossible to look away.
Eventually, the plot itself bounces along, where the money is frivolously spent by Steve on a mansion and cars, while David burns through his cash on hilariously bad disguises and must return home to his true love Kelly, before a determined FBI agent (an underutilized Leslie Jones) tracks everyone down. The parts in between that tie scenes together feel forgotten on purpose, but the outrageous part of all of this, is that somewhere between the craziness is that moment in the beginning that tells us that what we are seeing is based on a true story.
Masterminds is not perfect on the comedy scale. It's one of the hardest movies I have ever had to write a review for. I knew when I left the theater that this was a movie I should dislike, yet I couldn't forget it. If there is one thing I'll leave you with, it is that Masterminds provides a hilarious fist fight between Wiig and McKinnon that is more than worth the price of admission.
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady