| January 31, 2017

Based (loosely, I imagine) on a true story about an armored car robbery in 1997, Masterminds tells the story of David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis; The Hangover), who decides to rob the armored car company he works with after the woman he has a crush on, Kelly (Kristen Wiig; The Martian), suggests it.  Kelly’s motives are unclear though as the idea for the heist comes from her friend Steve (Owen Wilson; The Darjeeling Limited).  The heist is really only the setup to the story as we follow the various criminals go their own way and try to not get caught while playing each other.

I probably would never have seen this if it weren’t for this review.  And not that it’s bad, but I may never watch it again.  As a comedy, it’s very entertaining.  I like Galifianakis, Wiig and Olsen in their roles, each bringing a slightly different comedic style to the film.  It was also nice to see Mary Elizabeth Ellis (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) pop up here.  Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live) also has a really fun role as an eccentric hitman tasked with hunting down the David character and stop him from causing the others more trouble.

I tend to prefer when Galifianakis plays more straight characters instead of these ones with too much of an odd quality.  Even his role in The Hangover is extremely odd, but it’s played in an earnest way that makes it exponentially more ridiculous.  David feels like a gay caricature without actually being gay, a lot like his character in The Campaign, which I also wasn’t a fan of.  When Galifianakis is dry and not begging for a laugh, he’s infinitely more effective.

Kristen Wiig really steals the movie for me.  I’m a huge fan of most of her work when she’s not working with Paul Feig.  She’s an amazing comedian obviously, but her occasional work in dramas has made her a really well-rounded actor.  Kelly isn’t the most amazing or challenging character for her, but Wiig brings a great humanity to her that makes her deeper than just a manipulative femme fatale.  The movie maybe forces her shifts in character a little bit, but mostly everything feels realistic to what we know about her and how she feels about the other characters.

The film is stylized and over the top and while I’m sure some of the core plot points actually happened in 1997, I’m betting they took a lot of liberties with the story to try to heighten the laughs.  The end result is worth your time as it is very enjoyable the whole way through, but I’m betting it will slip into obscurity fairly quickly.

Available now on Blu-ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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