MASTERMINDS

Sometimes comedy films are tough to review, especially when you don’t like them. It’s somewhat hard to elaborate on why something just isn’t funny. Comedy is the most subjective of genres, so what others find funny, I may find absolutely grating. Based on a true story (my favorite marketing term), Masterminds concerns armored car security guard David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) who desperately wants to get out of his potentially horrible married life and run off to paradise with his ex-coworker Kelly (Kristen Wiig). To do so, he and her team up with small time crook Steve (Owen Wilson) to rob David’s armored car business, using David as the main scapegoat to put on the lam. The robbery is initially successful and wacky hijinks ensue. You know the drill.

One of the worst things of any comedy film is a waste of good talent, and look no further than this banal comedy caper to get that. I think that a lot of the people in this film can be hilarious when they’re utilized correctly, but they’re used here in the worst ways. I don’t care for the over the top, wacky Galifianakis, as much as I do the more sardonically witty one from stuff like Between Two Ferns. He’s unfortunately usually typecast to the former, and he’s used to the same effect here. Just goofy and zany. Kristen Wiig, who has shown to be a very capable dramatic and comedic performer, is simply going through the motions here. When she has nothing clever to work with, especially to utilize her impeccable comic subtlety, she just comes off as bland. Not only does director Jared Hess not utilize these great comics well, but his direction doesn’t help either. A lot like his debut film ‘Napoleon Dynamite’, there’s a lot of awkward, cringe type humor coupled with sluggish pacing and weird non-sequitur dialogue. I love awkward, cringe comedy as much as the next guy, but none of it here worked for me.

The rest of the cast is basically wasted. Owen Wilson and Leslie Jones are only there for the plot and fail to make any sort of impression. Interesting how Wilson is basically falling off the face of the Earth. A very special mention needs to be given to Jason Sudeikis, the star of the show. I maybe chuckled about four times by the time he came on screen and thanks to him, the chuckles reached the double digits. He even got a few legitimate laughs from me. I honestly think he’s one of the best, if not the best, comedic actor in film right now. His excellent timing coupled with his always hysterical delivery consistently makes him the funniest person in the films he’s in. On the opposite end of that spectrum, Kate McKinnon was an absolute assault on all senses. All she does it mug for the camera and either mumbles, or yells horribly unfunny quips. It felt like I was watching a Saturday Night Live skit during her scenes, which is telling, considering her background. She needs to break out of the mold and realize that more scripted, traditional comedy requires at least a grain of subtlety.

Speaking of Saturday Night Live, I couldn’t get over how cheap this movie felt while watching it. It looks like it was shot over a weekend, with some of the worst costume design, makeup, and hair dressing I’ve seen in a mainstream release in quite some time. Some of the costumes literally looked like they came from Party City. The cinematography is atrocious, as well. Nothing but flat, uninspired shots, although I admit there is a brief entertaining chase sequence midway through. It’s clear they shot this on an inexpensive HD camera, as the lighting is so overexposed, which just enhances the cheapness. I felt like I was watching a straight to DVD movie.

Overall, Masterminds is your typical poorly made, stale comedy that some studio slapped together in order to make a quick buck. There’s no love, no care, no anything. Just everybody phoning it in, so they can cash their check, and move onto a project they actually care about. Like the actual heist itself, Masterminds turns out to be a bust in the end.

3/10

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