Review: Masterminds

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PLOT: An armored car driver (Zach Galifianakis) is convinced to rob his employer by a former colleague (Kristen Wiig), who he has a crush on. The robbery ends-up being the biggest in U.S history, with $17 million stolen. When he goes on the lam in Mexico, one of his cohorts (Owen Wilson) starts spending money, and hires a professional killer (Jason Sudeikis) to tie-up loose ends.

REVIEW: MASTERMINDS is another one of those Relativity projects that’s been bouncing around the release date calendar for about two years now, all-the-while gathering dust on a shelf. The studio is finally getting around to putting-out this Jared Hess (NAPOLEON DYNAMITE) comedy, with them probably hoping the marquee cast will generate some quick cash at the box office.

masterminds kristen wiig zach galifianakis

Despite a promising premise, which, believe it or not, is based on an actual late-nineties robbery, MASTERMINDS is abysmal, and a poor vehicle for all the members of this admittedly starry cast. Zach Galifianakis, in particular, fares badly as our protagonist, a goofily-coiffed sad-sack hoping this heist will spring him from marrying his depressive fiancée (Kate McKinnon – one of the few who manages a couple quick moments of inspiration here). If it weren’t for his unusual turn on FX’s ‘Baskets’, I’d say Galifianakis’s shtick has finally reached the breaking point, and watching him flail around trying to wring laughs out of Hess’s self-consciously quirky (as always) style is borderline painful. The originally cast Jim Carrey might have been able to, at least, humanize the character somewhat.

However, Galifianakis isn’t the only one to blame as no one here comes-off much better. Owen Wilson, as the nominal antagonist, seems bored, phoning-in his role with seemingly minimal effort. Kristen Wiig fares slightly better, cast against type as Galifianakis’s trashy but sexy love interest, although she doesn’t get much to do, disappearing for long stretches at a time. Of everyone, other than McKinnon and a brief turn by Leslie Jones (cast against type as a cynical FBI agent), the only one who shows any real chops here is Jason Sudeikis as a blood-thirsty, but very thick between the ears, hit-man. He actually seems to fit the heightened vibe Hess is going-for, but it’s too little, too late by the time he makes his belated entrance.

masterminds jason sudeikis zach galifianakis

MASTERMINDS is somewhat reminiscent of the mid-2000’s Ben Stiller/Jack Black vehicle, ENVY, in that it seems like the cast and director were aiming to make a black comedy, only to try and shoehorn-in as much of their regular shtick late-in-the-game after getting cold feet. As such, it feels pretty half-assed, while the original story could have actually lent itself nicely to a kind-of Coen Bros-lite style caper picture. That kind of effort seems beyond Hess, who once again seems to confuse kitsch with comedy, and he clearly revels in the late-nineties setting, having Galifianakis roller-blade around with a Discman taped to his arm while wearing a sleeve of CD’s. His movies can occasionally pay-off, like DON VERDEAN, but the dark-premise seems beyond the usually clean-cut director, and the finished film is a botched mess. This is one that should have stayed on the shelf.

Source: JoBlo.com



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