Masterminds should’ve had a better plan

By Jonathan Shuping

October 2, 2016

It’s an incredibly difficult balancing act to walk the tight rope stretched between silly and sophisticated comedy, but when it happens it’s an elating experience. Alas, along with all the other fallen, you’ll find Masterminds.

The opening act actually had me considering the fantastical feat might be accomplished because it was charging hilariously out of the gate, treating the audience to an awkward engagement photo session montage featuring Zach Galifianakis and Kate McKinnon in head-to-toe denim. Likewise, the mid-90’s time period with its pager codes and lax airport security along with the rural North Carolina accents and mentalities are mined for some good laughs early but those colloquial gaffs turn stale quickly, especially for folks from here who know that not all citizens of our great state speak or think that way.

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Courtesy of Relativity Media

David Ghantt (Galifianakis) is the cuddly but naïve armored car guard who is suckered into a major bank robbery by his work crush (Kristen Wiig) then double-crossed by her associate (Owen Wilson) who eventually hires a hitman (Jason Sudeikis) to eliminate him from the profit sharing. Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre) directs the all-star comedic cast who put forth a noble effort but even these outstanding talents can’t pull off the act with the cards they’re dealt.

McKinnon and Wiig are the standouts, though Jason Sudeikis is pretty awesome too. Leslie Jones, as the FBI agent hot on the bumbling crooks’ money trail, is good but underused. Galifianakis is decent but at most one rung up on the evolutionary ladder from his Hangover character. Owen Wilson typically plays one of two roles: charming slacker Owen Wilson or annoying dickhead Owen Wilson. This one is the latter.

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Jason Sudeikis

The main problem, however, is that, once Masterminds starts to go off the rails, it can’t seem to decide which side of the tracks it wants to stay on. There’s plenty of slapstick and gross-out gags but also some serious dark humor and even action-comedy style heists and chase scenes. Instead of choosing one subgenre and nailing it, the movie tries to tackle them all and comes up short across the board.

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Courtesy of Relativity Media

It should be noted that Jared Hess films are often acquired tastes, not necessarily expected to be fully enjoyed or understood until after multiple viewings, but as for this initial sampling, the bottle couldn’t be emptied fast enough. I mean, the Hardee’s joke was okay, but when the funniest bit in your movie was already done fairly well in a Hardee’s commercial, the joke’s on you.

Star Rating: 2 out of 5

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