Masterminds – Review (** 1/2)

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It’s never exactly a good sign when a modestly-budgeted movie takes more than two years to go from shooting to release, though in fairness Masterminds was delayed by over one year due to distributor Relativity Media’s financial woes. Given the rather mediocre, forgettable end product, though, their striving to eventually put the movie in cinemas no matter what was basically for naught.

Based on North Carolina’s very real 1997 Loomis Fargo Robbery, Masterminds follows David Scott Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis), a guard at an armoured car company who is charmed by the lovely Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig) into helping carry out at a bank heist at his place of work. Of course, it’s not quite that easy.

This is as scattershot as anything director Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre) has ever made, probably aided by the fact that most of the writers who worked on this movie also collaborated as staff writers on his Napoleon Dynamite TV show. Though the inherent stranger-than-fiction quality makes it intermittently amusing, it’s also often too boneheaded to be funny, such that viewers may wonder whether or not the facts were embellished for the sake of comedy.

There are some inspired gags – Kelly and her husband (Owen Wilson’s) hilarioiusly extravagant post-heist spending is a hoot – but it often ends up, as the movie itself says, “dumber than a suitcase full of buttholes”, ultimately walking the so-dumb-it’s-hilarious line rather gingerly with a number of missteps.

The cast, though, are uniformly excellent; Galifianakis’ grim commitment to a highly unflattering part cannot be faulted, while Jason Sudeikis is one of the movie’s few truly memorable components as a hitman sent to rub Ghantt out. Ghostbusters Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones even show up for a spell, though are mostly just furniture for the leads to bounce dialogue off.

It’s certainly not a bad movie, with some inspired gags and a game, can-you-top-this approach to the heist genre, but the laughs come only intermittently, and its worst trait is simply how oddly easily it fades from memory given the outright absurdity of it all. It contiues to prove Hess is struggling to find a strong artistic outlet for his voice, which given his singular talent is immensely frustrating.

** 1/2

Masterminds is in US cinemas now


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