It’s difficult to make a comedy these days without it devolving into either juvenile slapstick buffoonery or an ignorant vulgarity-laden vehicle for the nation’s lowest common denominators. It’s especially hard when such a film’s protagonist is so completely devoid of intelligence or even common sense as to be totally unrelatable and unsympathetic throughout. Oh, and it’s even worse news that this movie, Masterminds, has been in the can waiting release for more than a year due to the studio’s bankruptcy problems.
Those are just the beginning of the troubles with the newest Relativity Media release, the supposedly true tale of the 1997 North Carolina Loomis-Fargo armored car robbery by a bunch of backwoods crackers the cast of “Hee Haw,” as well as Hillary Clinton, would find deplorable and unredeemable.
The premise is certainly ripe for some very funny situations, but under director Jared Hess (best known for “Napoleon Dynamite”), it grows more and more desperate and depressing with each passing reel. And, with a cast led by Zach Galifianakis (“The Hangover” franchise and now “Baskets” TV series), “Saturday Night Live” veteran Kristen Wiig (“Zoolander 2”) and Wes Anderson’s favorite whipping boy, Owen Wilson (who once was nominated for an Academy Award for writing “The Royal Tenenbaums”), the aforementioned negative comments should not be necessary, but even these actors cannot save it. Which is not to say Masterminds is a complete waste of time. There are some decent jokes (not a lot, mind you, but some) that come out of this story of sad-sack David Ghantt (Galifianakis), a Loomis-Fargo guard so trusted by his superiors that he is given a key to the storage warehouse’s vault. In this uninspiring and less than exciting position, he meets the flirtatious Kelly Campbell (Wiig), a white trash beauty who beguiles him into stealing what would amount to around $17 million.
The trouble is, there are not enough good laughs to make this worth the effort it takes to get dressed and drive to the cinema and it ends up joining “The Boss,” “Ghostbusters” and “The Brothers Grimsby,” among others, as ambitious, but ultimately failed live action comedies of 2016.
Anyways, after the heist, David is forced to live on the lam in Mexico while Campbell’s neighbor, Steve (Wilson), known as “Geppetto,” grabs the lion’s share of the largesse and he and wife proceed to spend like the extras in “Goodfellas” (cars, yachts, mansions, etc.). When Steve fails to have David captured by Mexican authorities (several times), he sends hitman Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis, the horrible “Mother’s Day”) to kill him. It’s here that the picture begins to turn into a not-so-memorable episode of “The Last Man on Earth” TV series (another Sudeikis vehicle) where David is spared because of a ridiculous coincidence.
And, as the plot spins more and more out of control, Steve kidnaps Kelly, forcing Galifianakis to come back to the States and do his best Liam Neeson “Taken” impersonation (he isn’t very convincing) in a befuddling rescue attempt.
Along with Wiig and Sudeikis, add other “Saturday Night Live” alums Leslie Jones (“Ghostbusters,” and quickly becoming the face of loud, obnoxious, black female characters onscreen), as a loud, obnoxious, black female FBI agent, and recent Emmy winner Kate McKinnon (“Ghostbusters”) as David’s weird, spaced-out (not in a good way) fiancee; neither of these actresses add anything but embarrassment to the effort, but the writers (Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, and “Saturday Night Live” scribbler Emily Spivey) continue to add insult to injury by trying to out do “The Brothers Grimsby” with several gross-out scenes, including a character getting a mouthful of Vagisil cream, as well as Galifianakis shooting himself in the ass, eating a tarantula and taking a dump into a hotel swimming pool (I don’t write this stuff, friends, I just report on what I have to see).
A few decades back, we had what was then known as the ultimate stupid comedy, “Dumb and Dumber,” which made boffo box office and even endeared itself to many critics despite it’s title and content. Here, Masterminds is dumb, all right, but no such affection will ever be attached to this mish-mash of a misadventure and stupidity.