Masterminds (2016)
Masterminds (2016)

Genre: Crime Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.

Release Date: September 30th, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Jared Hess Actors: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Jon Daly

 


 

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hile working a mundane job as a Loomis Fargo armored transport driver, David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) longs for adventure and daydreams of ways his vocation could be more exciting. When flirty Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig) is hired as his partner, Ghantt falls head-over-heels for the feisty rebel, and is then easily seduced into a scheme by Kelly’s underhanded friend Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) to rob the Loomis Fargo vault. After successfully absconding with more than $17 million in cash, the thieves split up in an effort to evade capture by the police. Ghantt heads to Mexico to lay low, Chambers remains in North Carolina to guard the money, and Kelly promises to eventually join David in Cancun. But greed overtakes Chambers, prompting him to betray Ghantt – first by turning him over to the FBI and, when that fails, to then hire hitman Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis) to murder him. But as luck – and extreme incompetence – would have it, nothing goes according to plan for the band of criminals as they sink even further into mischief and mayhem.

Zach Galifianakis has a striking way with portraying incredible ineptitude. It’s in the way his characters are styled, postured, and groomed, as well as in their choice of words (here, including “biscuits,” “gosh,” and “fart transplant”). His signature country bumpkin is also given a bit of an accent and an ungainliness when it comes to movement. And he plays the part very well, achieving sympathy and funniness with consistent alternation. Unfortunately, his supporting cast is woefully insufficient, save for Kristen Wiig, who, though assuming the role of a femme fatale with duplicitous intentions, generates a corresponding level of exaggerated yet quaint humanness. They’re both faulty yet endearing, even when plagued by significant imbecility.

Though it plays into the title, that sustained idiocy only works with some of the plot. Like “Pain & Gain,” or “The Big Lebowski,” the notion of combining crime with people of staggering inefficiency is a great way to set up comical, almost cartoonish crooks, and moderate infractions worth laughing at. Many of the gags are effective simply by observing the behavior of characters so odd that they surely betray some degree of authenticity. But early on, it seems as if the jokes run out, particularly when an accidental gunfire routine is repeated twice during the first ten minutes of the film. As the events spiral out of control, losing their basis in reality at about the same speed, there’s a hint at the darker idea of a malleable fool being manipulated by a poisonous seducer, coupled with blind desperation that is occasionally sadder than it is funny. But the random moments of absurdity (visual and verbal, as evidenced by exposed buttocks, defecating in a pool, and sexual innuendo), outrageous utterances, and slapstick asides tend to win out over the looming consequences of grand larceny. It’s a rather surprising, amusing mix of playful goofiness and crass grotesqueries.

Though McKinnon – who takes on a personality reminiscent of her turn in this year’s “Ghostbusters” – appears comfortable in portraying alien-like weirdness, it’s comic regular Jason Sudeikis who is most out of place, even in a world where mortality isn’t an issue and extraordinary coincidences save the day. His idiosyncratic assassin not only never acts like a real person, but also engages in activities (such as over-the-top heroics) that feel unbelievable, despite the fact that the narrative refuses to conform to sensible courses of action. At several points, the picture resembles the lunacy of “The Naked Gun,” which embraces an existence outside any specific movie reality. In the end, however, the love story reappears in force, allowing that default motivation to gloss over the more fantastical sequences (such as Ghantt and McKinney frolicking on the beach) for a humorous yet sentimental closing. Plus, there are decent outtakes.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10