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Masterminds Review: Doesn't Live Up to Its Comedy Pedigree

By Julian Roman — September 29th, 2016

Masterminds is a slapstick comedy based on a historic 1997 bank heist. It has an all-star cast of comedy veterans with direction by Jared Hess of Napoleon Dynamite fame. Unfortunately it doesn't nearly live up to its pedigree. There are a few laughs sprinkled throughout. The sight gags and costumes being its strength by far. The problem is that it's silly stupid, not silly funny. I could watch Dumb and Dumber fifty times. It's stupid, but knockdown funny. Masterminds plays like a weak SNL sketch that goes on for ninety minutes.

Zach Galifianakis stars as David Ghantt, a schlubby armored car driver in backwoods North Carolina. He's engaged but openly pines for Janice (Kristen Wiig), an ex-coworker. Janice's duplicitous childhood friend (Owen Wilson) convinces her to manipulate David into robbery. The result is a massive score with a whole lot of epically bumbling consequences.

The production design, costumes, and hairstyles fuel the sight gags. The characters are beyond outlandish. A particularly funny bit is how everyone uses beepers throughout the film. This aspect of Masterminds is bread and butter Jared Hess. He wraps oddballs in silly get-ups and it does elicit a few chuckles. His cast plays up to their costumes until it becomes mundane. Hess needed a stronger script to keep the laughs coming.

Masterminds has a choppy feel to it. The film doesn't have a smooth flow between scenes. It's probably because Hess had tons of improv footage and just cut in what he thought were the best bits. That works when you have good source material that is humorous on the page. Masterminds has a poor script. The cast tries to make up for it to minor success.

Coming from Relativity Media, Masterminds will probably be more of a hoot depending on your level of sobriety. Drunks and stoners may continue to get a kick out of gags that become well-worn to others. That said, the cast is likeable. You just want the film to be funnier and better written. Jason Sudekis stands out as a psychopathic hit man; who in his own way becomes endearing. He's always good. Some of his films are terrible. This one is borderline. Save it for cable.

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