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'Masterminds' fun but forgettable

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Heist comedy uneven, but reasonably entertaining

It's never a good sign when a film disappears from the schedule. While there are often extenuating circumstances, the truth is that movies that wind up stuck on the shelf should usually stay there.

It's never a good sign when a film disappears from the schedule. While there are often extenuating circumstances, the truth is that movies that wind up stuck on the shelf should usually stay there.

'Masterminds' isn't QUITE that movie. The comedy based loosely (VERY loosely, I'd guess) on a real-life armored car heist from the late 1990s was initially set to be part of last year's summer slate, but financial concerns led to distribution issues led towell, you get the picture.

Unlike many of its shelved ilk, however, 'Masterminds' isn't a total dud. Yes, it has its share of warts, but some of its faults are concealed nicely by a fun premise and a talented cast led by Zach Galifinakis (TV's 'Baskets'), Kristin Wiig ('Ghostbusters') and Owen Wilson ('Zoolander 2'). It's the sort of project that comes off as having been much more fun to make than it is to watch.

But there's still some fun to be had.

Galifinakis is David Ghantt, a schlubby nice guy who works as a security guard for an armored car company. He's engaged to marry Jandice (Kate McKinnon, 'Ghostbusters'), but he finds himself irresistibly drawn to his co-worker Kelly (Wiig).

All is well until Kelly gets fired and falls in with a crew of petty criminals led by Steve Campbell (Wilson). When Steve gets wind of David's access to the company vault as well as David's attraction to Kelly a plan begins to form. Steve and his crew with help from Kelly convince David to rob the company, spinning a story about how he can flee to Mexico and lay low until his confederates can deliver his share of the cash.

The smitten David takes the bait and takes the cash. He makes his way to Mexico where he awaits the arrival of Kelly so they can begin their lives together. Unfortunately, it turns out that Kelly has no intention of joining him; instead, thanks to an overlooked camera and an FBI investigation, David is the subject of a massive manhunt. Steve, seeing opportunity, sells out David in hopes of keeping all the money for himself.

But it turns out that the bumbling David isn't going to be so easy to remove from the picture especially when Kelly starts to realize that she might be on the wrong side of the whole situation.

'Masterminds' is directed by Jared Hess, who could make a hundred movies and still be known as the guy who gave the world 'Napoleon Dynamite.' This is the first time he's directed from someone else's script and it shows; his trademark quirkiness is present, but sometimes feels a bit forced. Shaping the story to fit his aesthetic mostly works, but occasionally feels forced. Still, he has a knack for giving shape to weirdos and outlier-types that is certainly effective here.

The story such as it is is a bit thin and leans a bit too heavily on the absurdism. That's not a bad thing necessarily, but there's a choppiness to the film that prevents a consistent narrative flow particularly in the later going. That said, there are some good lines and some fun bits of physical comedy it's amusing enough.

The cast does a lot to patch the holes. Galifinakis has made his bones playing this kind of man-child, creating characters that are so nave as to appear almost stupid. It's a fine line, but Galifinakis walks it. He projects an idiot sincerity that might be one note but it's an entertaining note. Wiig works hard alongside Galifinakis, but she's largely relegated to playing it straight; we only get a few fleeting glimpses of her considerable comic gifts. Wilson as the heavy seems a bit weird - like if your golden retriever was a criminal but at least he's having fun with it.

The rest of the cast includes some comedy heavyweights. McKinnon is wonderfully weird. Leslie Jones shows up as a no-nonsense FBI agent. And Jason Sudeikis slays pun mostly intended as a hired hitman whose path winds up taking an unexpected turn.

'Masterminds' is considerably better than you'd expect a film with its checkered history to be. It isn't a great movie, but it offers a few laughs. With a cast like this, how could it not? All in all, a decent, if ultimately forgettable movie-going experience.

[2.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 19:35

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