Movie Review: “Masterminds” overthinks itself


The real “hillbilly heist” was funny enough, without a lot of Hollywood embellishment. A gang of rubes from rural N.C. robbed a Loomis Fargo armored truck storage facility safe of $17 million, and almost got away with it.

They just couldn’t resist the siren’s call, “Attention Wal-Mart shoppers!”

But Hollywood overcast, over-complicated and overthought this folktale of rednecks who soared, and got too close to the sun. There are laughs, but the uneven cast and the odd wonderful bit of physical shtick don’t add up to the sustained silliness that “Masterminds” cries out for.

Only a native of Andy Griffith’s North Carolina could pull off a line like this.

“Ah never been to the arr-port but twiced.”

Zach Galifianakis, no longer hung over but always and forever “Between Two Ferns,” is that Tarheel. And I dare say nobody else could have played the drawling rube David Ghantt, bag-man and patsy in the infamous 1997 caper.

Ghantt is a fey mop-topped doofus engaged to the dull Born Again Christian Jandice (deadpan Kate McKinnon), but smitten by the new gal sitting beside him in his Loomis Fargo armored truck. That would be the sassy Kelly (Kristen Wiig).

Kelly might suggest they swipe some of that mountain of cash, but can’t-shoot-straight David is worried about consequences.

“We could get FIRED!” To say nothing of prison and what not.

But when Kelly is fired for cause after an epic meltdown with the boss, her disreputable pals in the “high rise double-wide” they call home grab hold of the idea. She becomes the bait as the mysterious “Geppetto” (Owen Wilson) — a puppet master “pulling the strings behind the scenes — plots the robbery.

Ghantt’s best throw away line in the movie might be his correcting the “mastermind’s” mistake — “Actually, Stromboli pulled the strings. Geppetto was just a poor woodcarver.”

master3Kelly leads David on, the plan is set up and rehearsed, and then the big night — complete with bungles — plays out, and they’re all $17 million richer.

It’s funny, but Relativity, the releasing studio, was shy about letting this one into theaters, and didn’t show it to critics in advance. You’d think Loomis Fargo would have tried to stop it on their own. Blithering idiots like this hit them for that much money, and in the film, at least, it looks as if the vaunted armored car company was so lax that “inside jobs” were bound to happen. And they almost got away clean.

Steve, the mastermind’s real name, has Kelly convince David to flee to Mexico and lay low with just a little cash and a disguise that includes very unusual contact lenses.

“I thought ‘Anaconda’ was the BRAND name.”

The lovesick David falls for it hook, line and sinker. But as the FBI (Leslie Jones) strains to unravel the robbery, David stumbles into the truth. And that’s when Steve sends a redneck hitman (Jason Sudeikis) to Mexico to do the extravagant boob in.

Because Steve and his family (he and his wife think nothing of discussing the robbery in front of their young sons) are busy spending all the money on themselves — braces, Beemers and tacky matching Members Only jackets and the like.

The dream? To not work at the take-out window at Hardee’s, but “to be on the OTHER side of that window, driving up in a Rolls Royce, getting a year’s supply of CURLY fries!”

One of the delights of “Masterminds” is how easy it is to take Wiig’s natural cheap tartness to the next level. A half-midriff tattoo (Of her Mama, maybe?), a hint of a drawl, a funny shooting range (accident) scene and a “sexual harassment” tirade were almost enough to make this work.

But Wiig puts such effort into making Kelly “conflicted” that all the fun flees the character. Her fellow SNL alumni and “Ghostbusters” castmates McKinnon (too few scenes) and Jones (virtually nothing funny to play) are wasted in thankless roles.

Wilson is the one member of the cast who doesn’t even attempt an accent, which leaves his character colorless.

Only Sudeikis is able to hilariously justify fictionalizing much of this story, giving us a drawling, mustachio’d parody of a hit man this clown must have seen in a movie at the drive-in.

And Galifianakis gamely gives his all, trying to carry this not-quite-hilarious/not-remotely-droll “romp” by the director of “Napoleon Dynamite.” He does the exaggerated drawl, wears the ridiculous wig and vamps it up in Mexico in too many scenes on the phone with Kelly, or bonding with the guy who’s supposed to kill him.

If you remember this heist at all, you’d have to have thought it would make a good movie someday. But in your mind, as in my mind, it was a quicker, broader and almost certainly funnier farce than “Masterminds.”



MPAA Rating:PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, some language and violence
Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Kate McKinnon, Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Jones

Credits:Directed by Jared Hess, script by Chris Bowman, Emily Spivey, Hubbel Palme. A Relativity release.

Running time:1:34

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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