[Screen It]


(2016) (Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig) (PG-13)

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Comedy: An armored car driver learns he's been double-crossed by those who convinced him to pull off a multi-million dollar heist.
David Ghantt (ZACH GALIFIANAKIS) is an armored car driver who's always dreamed of excitement in his life, such as being a hero during some sort of heist. Instead, he just does the same job day in and day out, all while being dominated by his hyper-intense fiancée, Jandice (KATE McKINNON). He secretly dreams of a romance with his co-worker, Kelly Campbell (KRISTEN WIIG), but when she quits he's heartbroken. That is, until she calls him a few weeks later with the proposition that if he robs the armored car company of millions of dollars, she'll move to Mexico with him.

Of course, she has no intention of doing so, what with being in cahoots with her childhood friend, Steve Chambers (OWEN WILSON), who hatched the idea and is looking to enjoy the spoils of the heist with his wife, Michelle (MARY ELIZABETH ELLIS), all while leaving David high and dry.

When David eventually learns he's been double-crossed, he threatens to turn everyone in, forcing Steve to hire hitman Mike McKinney (JASON SUDEIKIS) to take care of the problem. While that assassin travels across the border to do the job and FBI agent Scanlon (LESLIE JONES) also tries to find the thief, David still holds out hope that Kelly, who's having second thoughts about how they've treated him, will change her mind and join him.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Criminals come in all shapes and sizes in real life, but when it comes to such character types in movies, they usually fall into one of three categories. There are those who desperately need the money and thus commit some sort of crime to make that happen, and more often than not are first-time criminals. Examples of that are Al Pacino's character in "Dog Day Afternoon" and, more recently, Chris Pine's in "Hell or High Water."

The second involves the opportunists. They don't necessarily need the money in any sort of desperate way, but greed is the driving force behind their actions. And with no hurry and plenty of time to think things through, they often have elaborate plans to get the cash. Just think of the crew in "Ocean's Eleven" or Hans Gruber and his team in "Die Hard."

And finally we have the buffoons. These sometimes will be a combination of the first two categories in that they could use the cash to better their place in the world and see what initially appears to be an easy way to make that happen. Unfortunately for them -- but fortunately for audience members and their viewing entertainment if things are handled just right -- such criminals usually don't have the smarts to pull off the perfect crime and are blinded by the potential money, only to end up in way over their heads. The kidnappers in "Ruthless People" come to mind.

Those responsible for "Masterminds" want to pull off the latter sort of perfect buffoon crime caper in a story that's actually based on a true-life event. I have no idea if those involved in the actual robbery could be viewed as funny or amusing in relation to what's just been described. I'm guessing the armored car company they robbed of $17 million didn't view them that way. Whatever the case for everyone else, however, I can say without pause that those playing them and the film they're in aren't funny or amusing. In fact, the whole thing is annoying and bad.

It certainly seems that director Jared Hess and screenwriters Chris Bowman & Hubble Palmer and Emily Spivey simply thought something along the lines of "Let's put Zach Galifianakis in as many weird outfits, disguises, bad wigs and goofy situations and let the laughs naturally roll." Alas, the later don't, and the entire offering feels forced and awkwardly constructed.

While Galifianakis seems game for whatever the filmmakers throw his way, the material simply isn't that smart, inspired or funny, although some of it certainly qualifies as gross-out material. Jason Sudeikis also tries to do something with his sadistic assassin with a soft spot for certain people character (who's hired to kill our protagonist), but likewise is left high and dry by the material. Kristin Wiig and Owen Wilson play the "brains" behind the plan but both performers appear disengaged and distracted, as if they know the material is bad but they're now contractually obligated to play it out.

Kate McKinnon continues playing over-the-top obnoxious following the same she tried to pull off in this summer's "Ghostbusters" reboot, while that film's other co-star, Leslie Jones, can't do anything with the FBI character she plays. Apparently, only Melissa McCarthy was smart enough to stay away from this flick.

The plot is simple. Galifianakis plays an armored car driver who's so smitten with his former coworker that he easily goes along with her suggestion -- by way of Wilson's character -- that he rob the company and then they'll move down to Mexico together. He does, in an expected buffoonish way, all while the characters played by Sudeikis and Jones separately hunt him down, Wilson's character starts living the large life with his newfound money, and Wiig's character begins to have second thoughts.

Along the way, the protagonist eats a dead tarantula (with guts squirting out), while McKinnon's character talks about wearing a thong leading to an infected "hoo-ha" (thus requiring the need for "Vagaway" cream that, natch, ends up squirted back into her mouth during a fight). She also separately farts on the lead, some pubic or butt hair ends up on some money and blown onto a cashier, and the protagonist drinks some water in Mexico and has the to-be-expected scatological reaction (in a swimming pool, no less).

I'm not above laughing at crude humor or moronic characters, but both types of material need to be handled just right to elicit the laughs. Beyond groaning at such attempts, all I could think about while watching the painful 96-some minute unfold were real-life mastermind groups where brilliant people assemble to look at problems and solve them via past experience or just raw talent of knowing what will work.

Apparently there was no such mastermind during the planning or shooting of "Masterminds." If you want to watch a comedy about buffoonish criminals, go back and watch something like "Ruthless People" and skip this one. The film rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed September 28, 2016 / Posted September 30, 2016

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