By: BabyRuth (Four Beers) –
Masterminds is based on the true story of the 1997 $17 million dollar heist of the Loomis Fargo armored car company. Nicknamed “The Hillbilly Heist,” due to the many, many, MANY mistakes everyone involved made, it was only a matter of time until this stranger-than-fiction tale got the Hollywood treatment. That time would have been August of 2015, but due to Relativity Media’s financial woes, the Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) directed movie has been delayed several times and at one point indefinitely postponed, but now it finally sees the light of day in theaters (for at least a week anyway).
David Scott Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) is a simple kind of man. He lives in a small North Carolina town and is an employee at Loomis Fargo & Co., having worked his way up from armored car driver to vault supervisor. Though engaged to the nagging, dead-eyed Jandice (Kate McKinnon), he secretly pines for his flirty co-worker Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig).
After Kelly is fired from her job, she falls in with the wrong crowd, led by pediatric wheelchair thief Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) who gets the idea to rob Loomis Fargo after learning of a recent multi-million dollar heist via the nightly news, aka “the big show.” This grand plan consists of Kelly seducing David to be the inside man and empty his assigned vault after-hours. It only takes a little mild coercing and a couple undone buttons for David to agree to participate.
After somehow successfully pulling off the robbery, David is sent off to Mexico with $20,000.00 of the $17M loot to lay low, with Kelly promising to join him “soon.” Meanwhile, Steve, the self-proclaimed “Gepetto” of the scheme and his wife Michele (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) do anything but lay low and start spending large sums of the stolen money on a lavish lifestyle including a mansion, personal tanning beds, and a velvet Elvis painting (again, this movie is based on real events, and while many liberties are taken, the velvet Elvis is not, I repeat not, one of them. That happened.).
David begins to, very slowly (he isn’t too bright, you see), piece everything together and realize he was set up as the fall-guy and is never going to see any more of the money or Kelly. After he threatens to turn himself and everyone else in to the police, Steve hires a hit-man (Jason Sudeikis) to take him out.
The FBI is also not far behind on David’s trail, with detectives (Leslie Jones and Jon Daly) quickly figuring out the
half quarter-hatched plan.
At least a few laughs are guaranteed with this cast and that’s exactly what we get.
Masterminds often feels like one of those Saturday Night Live sketches that while bombing, still contains a few brief inspired comedic moments. Of course, it also feels like a Saturday Night Live sketch because the majority of the cast is either a current or former SNL player (Lorne Michaels is also a producer- shocker!). Everyone seems to be having a good ol’ time playing assorted over-the-top morons, though, largely due to the writing, it’s never as much fun for the audience watching it.
Even Kate McKinnon, who is frequently responsible for those above-mentioned brief inspired comedic moments on SNL and is again here (the engagement photo shoot early on is easily the funniest sequence) can only do so much with the material (and that would be doing another incarnation of the same wacky deadpanning character we’ve seen her do before).
Oh wait, this is the Toast section… whoops!
Well, um, since the film is set in the 1990s, we also get some horrible fashion of the era which is somewhat amusing.
Galifianakis’s Ghantt (say that three times fast) is a hybrid of Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carey’s Dumb and Dumber character), Joe Dirt, and Paul Blart. He’s stereotypical white trash, beyond intellectually-challenged, and falls down a lot. There are also tons of gross sight gags and he wears lots of silly costumes. If this sounds like comic gold to you, well then get to a movie theater and knock yourself out. For everyone else, despite Galifianakis’ commendable shamelessness, it gets tiring really fast and the character is never endearing enough to get the audience to root for him. We simply don’t care.
You just sighed and rolled your eyes at this picture, didn’t you?
It’s pretty unbelievable that the real-life David Ghantt was not only totally fine with this 90 minute roast, but also worked as a consultant on the film, and an unpaid one at that (he still owes the IRS around 3 million dollars.) I mean, (the fictional, hopefully) Ghantt is so absurdly dim-witted that when Wiig’s character gets a small cut on her chest, he asks why blood, and not milk, comes out.
Like Napoleon Dynamite, Hess is once again going for a lovable loser vibe with the character, but since it’s an actual living person, it often feels kind of mean-spirited instead. Not only to Ghantt, but pretty much every character. Like “Hey, look at all these big stars playing dumbass country bumpkins!”
Yeah, the real people are dumbass country bumpkins, but still…
Speaking of, the real-life story of the Loomis Fargo heist is about as unbelievable as you can get (read about it here) and while many of the events in the movie are true to the facts, a lot is fictionalized to make it more outrageous. But it really didn’t need to be, as much of what actually happened is even crazier than what any of the three screenwriters (plus three more writers with “story” credits) came up with and wasn’t included.
Take this little tidbit for instance:
Michele Chambers walked into a Mount Holly bank the following week and asked how much cash she could deposit without having to fill out IRS paperwork. She was told she could put in $10,000. She pulled $9,500 out of a briefcase. But the teller filled out the form anyway.
Why the hell wouldn’t they put THAT in the movie? Maybe they could have even gotten Melissa McCarthy to make a cameo as the bank teller. (Lady Ghostbuster bingo!)
The film often feels very choppy, likely the result of numerous edits between all the botched release dates. I can’t help but wonder what was left behind and if it would have improved the end result. It seems like entire subplots were eliminated with only a few fragments remaining in the final product. For example Ken Marino is introduced as the Chambers’ new neighbor who is suspicious of their sudden wealth, but then he only appears in a couple scenes. Likewise, Leslie Jones only shows up occasionally to yell (of course) a few lines here and there.
I haven’t seen a great cast squandered this badly since Movie 43 (coincidentally, also a Relativity Media release). While Masterminds is nowhere near that disaster, don’t make a point to rush out and see this (it will probably be out of theaters by next week anyway). Maybe check it out in a couple months on cable or Netflix if you have nothing better to do.
Masterminds (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time David Ghantt falls down
Take a Drink: whenever an automobile is wrecked
Take a Drink: for every ridiculous disguise Ghantt wears
Take a Drink: whenever Ghantt uses the wrong word or mispronounces something
Take a Drink: every time someone says “Mike McKinney”
Take a Drink: “1-4-3”
Do a Shot: for every fart
Finish the Entire Bottle: for the shart
Last Call: Yes, there are bloopers. Even they aren’t that funny.