Brilliantly dumb criminals A great cast of stupid thieves shines in “Masterminds”

Movie review by Fines Massey

Zach Galifianakis continues his career as Hollywood’s naive fool caught up in a scheme that’s way over his head in “Masterminds.”

Galifianakis stars as David Ghantt, the man who pulled off one of the biggest robberies in American history in 1997. The furthest thing from being a mastermind, David, who is the typical lovable idiot that Galifianakis plays, is talked into robbing his armored car employer by his former co-worker, Kelly (Kristen Wiig). Kelly promises to be David’s escape from his sad life in which he’s about to marry a woman (an exceptionally crazy and funny Kate McKinnon) that he obviously doesn’t love.

All he has to do is steal the money, escape to Mexico and one day she’ll join him and they’ll live happily ever after. What David doesn’t realize is that he’s just a pawn in a bigger game devised by Steve (Owen Wilson), who wants to pin the robbery on David and take his share of the cash.

“Masterminds” like director Jared Hess’ claim to fame, “Napoleon Dynamite,” is what I like to call a smart dumb movie. It’s dumb with a purpose. Everything is played straight and the jokes come from the absurd actions (and forever quotable dialogue) of the eccentric characters that fill the film.

Leading the cast is Galifianakis, sporting a goofy shoulder length haircut with huge bangs (that he is very proud of) and looking right at home in a run down North Carolina trailer park. Galifianakis is the key to making or breaking the film, and his goofy yet sweet demeanor steals almost every scene that he’s in. If he’s not making you laugh out loud, he’s at least making you smile. Originally Jim Carrey was cast in the role, but thankfully he dropped out. I just don’t think this movie could have worked without Galifianakis.

That’s not to say that Galifianakis is the whole film. His fellow criminals are just as insane and interesting. He’s meant to be the straight man amongst a group of crazies, but this trailer park Godfather turns out to be just as oddball as his counterparts when he gets his piece of the money and uses it to purchase giant velvet Elvis paintings and to trick out his Metro Geo.

The only time that Galifianakis isn’t stealing the scene is when he’s competing with Jason Sudeikis for the craziest character on the screen. Sudeikis plays Mike, an incredibly eccentric hit man sent to kill David in Mexico. In one scene, Sudeikis explains the plot to “Parent Trap” to Galifiankis, and I could not stop laughing.

The weakest member of the cast is sadly Wiig, who continues to prove that she’s one of the best comedic actresses of her generation, as she plays the typical criminal with a heart of gold. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t give her much to do except react to her costars’ craziness.

Hess has had a lot of missteps (“Nacho Libre,” Gentlemen Broncos”) since his debut hit, but I believe he’s back on the right track with “Masterminds.”

In a movie that had me laughing to tears on several occasions, I have to admit that not every joke lands (there’s a running joke about the effects of Mexican water on David’s system that is groan-worthy). Sadly, the script is the weakest part of the film; with a few edits and tweaks, “Masterminds” probably could have been a classic.

Fortunately, this is a case where a great cast has elevated a story that we’ve probably all heard before (even if it’s mostly based on a true story).


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