Movie Review: ‘MASTERMINDS’ – a dumb comedy with class

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

MASTERMINDS | 94 min | PG-13
Director: Jared Hess
Cast: Zach GalifianakisKristen WiigOwen WilsonKate McKinnonJason SudeikisLeslie JonesMary Elizabeth Ellis and Ken Marino

Like this week’s release of DENIAL (our review here), MASTERMINDS is another film based on a true story (albeit loosely).

It’s an altered account on one of the largest heists in history, as a group of amateurs decide to rob Loomis Fargo of $17 million. David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) works for Loomis Fargo, but quickly becomes a patsy as his affection for Kelly (Kristen Wiig) leads him to commit robbery. A plan hatched by Steve (Owen Wilson), David steals everything but doesn’t get rid of all of the evidence.

They ship him to Mexico, while all chaos breaks loose back home, and makes David a loose end. He left behind his alien-like fiancée Jandice (Kate McKinnon), Steve sends a psychotic hitman (Jason Sudeikis) to kill the patsy, and the FBI agents (Leslie Jones and Jon Daly) are putting everything together.
More or less, MASTERMINDS is a movie that you just have to realize is going to be weird, but in a great way.

Directed by Jared Hess (NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, NACHO LIBRE), he has a knack for rustic humor, as the homeliness of the characters play into the setting of the scene. It’s easy to make a comedy about white trash wanting to get rich quick, but the funny comes from the little things that make the characters unique.

The entire movie plays like a SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE “10-to-1” sketch, which is designated for the last sketch of the night and highlighted by something completely offbeat. The key thing for a movie like this to work is that it rides that weird motif into the ground. For instance, all of the montages get the most laughs, from going over the plan to sweet, naïve David enjoying Mexico. It could’ve been better paced, as it seemed to be lapsing time so much that it seemed to skip some elements to fully flesh out the story.

There’s nothing wrong with dumb comedy, as long as it has something more to it. We, as viewers, want dumb that take us out of our element. The world built within MASTERMINDS is something unique, which allows for acceptance of odd behavior. There is plausibility to the madness, a naiveté that is folly to certain circumstances that can happen. Will the FBI use a neighbor to get information on a suspect? Sure. Will that assistance be thwarted because a guy can’t breathe through his nose? Not likely, but the appearance of this obstacle is hysterical.

MASTERMINDS is here to make you laugh at some buffoons that got in the way of themselves escaping with millions of dollars. Come for the farce of life, stay for the hysterics of fiction.

MASTERMINDS opens nationwide on Friday.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.