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Movie Review: #Masterminds

Masterminds is for comedy food the white-trash soul.

Review by Matt Cummings

In Director Jared Hess' Masterminds, the "Hillbilly Heist" - the largest and perhaps most improbably heist in American history - is brought to the screen, care of an exceptionally talented corps of master comedians who use their talents to mostly hilarious effect. Zach Galifianakis plays the white-trash armored truck driver David Ghantt, whose pleasant and uncomplicated life is forever changed when his coworker Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig) seduces him to steal from the Loomis Fargo bank, with the promise they'll be together in sunny Mexico. What the Prince Charming-do'ed Ghantt doesn't realize is that he's being manipulated by Campbell's thieving friend Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson), who intends to hang Ghantt out for the robbery and take all the money. Pursued in Mexico by Interpol, Ghantt assume different looks to maintain a low profile, but eventually meets the assassin Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis) who's been paid to take him out. As an FBI agent (Leslie Jones) begins to unravel the inside job, Ghantt must return to the States to rescue his girl and turn himself in to right this wrong.

So long as you're not looking for comedic genius to erupt, Masterminds is hilarious at many points. Galifianakis keeps the ball moving with his blissfully ignorant shtick, which here never seems to get old. I can't say I've felt the same after watching other films in his resume, but here he gives Ghantt the full treatment, appearing like a female cat in one scene, and a Mexican Gene Shalit in another. His chemistry with Wiig is perhaps the best I've seen from him, as she makes the most of Campbell's low-cut shirts and acid-washed jeans. Galifianakis also has a lot of fun with Sudeikis, whose choice seems a bit perplexing. He plays McKinney well enough, but I could imagine better lines coming from him as well as several other more qualified actors. Still, his scenes with Galifianakis are great as each plays off the caricature of the other.

What isn't great about Masterminds is Ghantt's strangely unfunny fiancee (Kate McKinnon), whose frozen faces and oddly pronounced lines aren't exactly show stoppers; ok, they're terrible, like a black hole halting any inertia in Writers Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, Emily Spivey's script each time Hess turns his attention to her. McKinnion is usually either wildly brilliant or awful, with usually very few performances settling in between. The same with Wilson: he stopped being funny a long time ago, unless you like seeing him act the exact same way regardless if he's in a serious role (like the very good No Escape) or a better-matched one for his obvious lack of talent. He's really awful here, going for looks over style as he plays puppet master over Campbell.

I can't wait for Hollywood to realize that Jones is the real deal, but for now we'll have to settle for these smaller roles. She's got Angry Black Woman down but doesn't rely on just that to garner laughs. She's fabulous in every scene, even reacting subtly in one scene when mistaken as a man. For all the physical comedy of Masterminds sometimes brings the funny in other ways, never afraid to deal the white-trash card including Chambers' decision to outfit a Chevy Geo with giant mud tires and elevate it like a Frankenstein out of Mad Max. Ken Marino also makes an appearance, reminding us that Hess might have done better to cast him as McKinney, due to his innate Italian sliminess.

But for all the stupid hat tricks Masterminds utilizes to steal our money, you'll find yourself laughing hysterically if you treat this for exactly what it is: a dumb comedy to shut off your brain while making multiple trips to the butter machine to spice up your popcorn. Masterminds isn't here to change the world, but merely to entertain; and with so many winning scenes lead by Galifianakis' costume changes and mostly adept cast, you're sure to be entertained by its white-trash zaniness.

Masterminds is rated Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, some language and violence and has a runtime of 94 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


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