FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: “Masterminds” stars Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Birdman: or [The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance]), Kristen Wiig (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty , The Martian), Owen Wilson (Bottle Rocket, Cars), Jason Sudeikis (We’re the Millers, Horrible Bosses), Kate McKinnon (Finding Dory, Ghostbusters ), Leslie Jones (Sing, Top Five), John Daly (Zoolander 2, Kroll Show [TV series]), Devin Ratray (Home Alone, Blue Ruin), Mary Elizabeth Ellis (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia [TV series], A Quiet Little Marriage), Ken Marino (Role Models, Wanderlust), and Ross Kimball (Mascots, Chicago Med [TV series]). It is directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre) and is written by Chris Bowman (Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, The Wrong Brother [Short]), Hubbel Palmer (Humble Pie, Napoleon Dynamite [TV series]), and Emily Spivey (King of the Hill [TV series], Up All Night [TV series]). Based on a true story, this film follows the late 90’s robbery of Loomis Fargo, and how one man by the name of David Ghantt (Galifianakis) got his revenge on the people he worked for in heist.
When I found out Jared Hess was directing another picture, let alone one year after another film of his, “Don Verdean,” I was ecstatic. Sure, he didn’t write “Masterminds,” but the trailer was so funny it was hard to pass up. I knew it got terrible reviews; heck, when does Hess never get ridiculed for any of his movies? However, I went into this hoping for another good ‘ol fashioned Hess comedy fest, and thankfully that’s what I received, for the most part. Before I say anything about what makes this movie good or bad, let me first state that this doesn’t top “Napoleon Dynamite” or “Nacho Libre”; not by a long shot. It doesn’t have the tenacity, nor the originality to reach the heights those classics have, however it puts on one heck of a show. Right out the gate, this film subtly made me laugh hysterically. Hess’ dry, zany humor definitely seeped through the direction of these characters, even if the writing was more cartoonish than what he’s used to. Honestly, the story of this was close enough to Hess’ style that I could’ve been tricked into thinking he penned it himself. There’s certain tells that can make you wonder if he actually did, but overall it looked as though both writers and director were on the same page. And my goodness, was that page full of craziness! This feature had gross-out, physical, and slapstick humor infused into one, all of which made for an unforgettable ride in terms of quoting. The plot itself was rather basic: a goofball steals a ton of money, gets duped by the leader of the operation, and is forced to get revenge. It’s straightforward and to-the-point, though it takes a while for everything to come full circle. Sandwiched in-between everything is a bunch of humor, most of which lands gracefully. The acting is as stellar as it gets. I mean, you have the greats, all on one screen together. Galifianakis was the show-stealer as I couldn’t help but laugh at that man every time he said something. Wiig, Wilson, McKinnon, Sudeikis, and Jones also did solid jobs themselves. McKinnon had to be the weirdest one of the bunch, and Sudeikis was just flat-out insane. I enjoyed watching everyone, though I could definitely tell that Saturday Night Live had their hands in this project, considering the cast and the fact that Lorne Michaels produced it. Typically, SNL movies are all cookie-cutter comedies, save for a few classics (“Wayne’s World,” “Tommy Boy,” “Hot Rod”), but this was pretty good. The cinematography and settings were beautiful and hilariously bad in depicting who these characters are and what the business does to them. Just looking at the environment around them was enough to spark a laugh. Although I don’t agree with the scathing reviews that critics gave it, I will say that there are quite a few issues that arose when watching this movie, most of which revolved around its plot. The first act of this film is hilarious; without a doubt. Right up to David running away to Mexico, things are moving fast and it’s funny. However, once he’s in hiding, things take a turn for the worst. I wouldn’t say that the story got terrible, but rather it got flat. The jokes were too far and in-between, and it took a while for things to pick up pace again, which gives us the explosive third act. The writers tried to inject some emotion into these characters during the second act, especially between Kelly (Wiig) and David, though I didn’t really care for them as characters. I looked for laughs, not drama, so when drama was forced, it didn’t fly well. You can’t take a comedy seriously whenever the humor is in your face a majority of the time (especially when it’s Hess humor). That’s really the big issue with it. When comedy subsides, the plot begins to drag, causing pacing problems. Fortunately, things pick up towards the end, as I have mentioned, giving way to a somewhat satisfying ending for these characters. It’s based on a true story, which is hard to believe considering the approach this team took towards it, and while the story could’ve been developed more (giving further detail than just comedy on the surface), I was still entertained with what I received. I laughed a lot, the acting was terrific, and the directing was great. It’s what you’d expect from a Hess-helmed release. FINAL SCORE: 82%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: