Masterminds had a lot going for it – the fun ensemble cast of Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Jason Sudeikis and Zach Galifianakis as the worst possible criminal mastermind; co-writer of the film, Emily Spivey, who has been responsible for many episodes of Modern Family; and director Jared Hess who has made the delightfully unconventional Napoleon Dynamite.
With such big names behind steering the wheel it’s quite depressing to watch the events of the film unfold without much charm or humour.
Supposedly based on a true story (but hard to believe considering the amount of ridiculousness in the story), Masterminds is a heist comedy that chooses a strange slapstick tone over engrossing thrills to a weirdly unsatisfying effect.
The film introduces us to David (Galifianakis) a man who drives armored trucks and guarding the money in them. He is about to get married to a total nutter named Jandice (McKinnon) who he isn’t very happy to get married to but doesn’t have a choice because no other woman would want him.
The alluring Kelly (Wiig) comes into his life with subtle flirtations and her friend Steve (Wilson) uses her to get David into a heist. David ends up stealing a lot more than required, and finds himself being chased by an FBI agent (Jones) and a hitman (Sudeikis).
There’s plenty of absurdity in the film – like David wearing reptile eye contacts to mingle with crowds, or constantly using his hair for comedic effect, or packing thousands of dollars in his underpants. Seen through a purely weird lens Masterminds has most of the bizarre-ness from Napoleon Dynamite.
Unfortunately, the charm from that movie, or Hess’ other film Nacho Libre, isn’t quite there to make you care about any of the characters. Without the charm all the sight gags seem mean spirited in nature, and also a lineup of rejected Saturday Night Live jokes retooled in this film.
Moreover, the fact that the film is more about what happens after the heist is an odd choice of storytelling. Again, if any of the scenes had any real meaning to them it would still have been an entertaining movie, but when you rely on vaginal cream being shoved in a woman’s mouth, or a man experiencing bodily problems after drinking contaminated water there’s little to really care about.
It’s pretty much Dumb and Dumber, without nice enough characters to get you interested in their gross out gags.
The lone laugh in the movie is courtesy of Sudeikis whose character bonds over David over The Parent Trap. It’s the only time in the film where a genuinely heartfelt joke comes into the picture, and had the film followed this style of comedy rather than shots of a dead tarantula being eaten, or someone sharting in a swimming pool, or repeated jokes about adult braces it could probably have been a more interesting movie.
As of now Masterminds seems to be merely a longer episode of the Jackass series and a parade of ‘lets do gross things’.