Based on the cast alone, Masterminds might look like an instant comedy classic. The poster showcases Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Jason Sudeikis, six of the funniest performers currently in the business. As an added bonus, the ensemble also includes Mary Elizabeth Ellis of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Buzz from Home Alone himself, Devin Ratray. Despite all the talent involved, though, Masterminds never meets its full potential. That’s not to say the film is devoid of humor, but there aren’t quite enough laughs here to warrant a recommendation.
That’s not to say the film is devoid of humor, but there aren’t quite enough laughs here to warrant a recommendation.
Inspired by a robbery that took place in 1997, the film stars Galifianakis as David Scott Ghantt, a Southern night guard at an armored car company. David fantasies about two things: 1) Being an action star. 2) Winning the affection of co-worker Kelly (Wiig). With Kelly’s help, Wilson’s Steve cooks up a scheme to pull off a bank heist. Since David has access to the vault, he seems like the perfect patsy. Of course the plan spirals out of control, as David is forced to go on the run, Steve emerges as a backstabber, and Kelly breaks a few hearts.
At times Masterminds is almost reminiscent of Coen Brothers movie, particularly Fargo. The thing is that the Coens know how to make smart movies about dumb people. Masterminds, meanwhile, is a dumb movie about dumb people. It really doesn’t matter if a comedy like this is stupid, however. What really matters is whether or not the film is funny. To be fair, we do get several fun performances and director Jared Hess knows how to set up a sight gag. Alas, for every joke that works, there’s another joke that doesn’t really go anywhere.
For example, McKinnon scores a few big laughs as David’s creepy fiancé. At the end of the day, however, her character doesn’t serve any purpose. She could’ve been cut out entirely and it wouldn’t have affected the narrative at all. We also get a lot of missed opportunities in Sudeikis’ character, a hitman tasked with tracking David down. There’s a scene where David unexpectedly befriends his killer, which is a funny twist. Yet, this subplot never entirely gets off the ground. The narrative on the whole is pretty clunky and can often feel half-baked.
The narrative on the whole is pretty clunky and can often feel half-baked.
Jared Hess previously gave us Napoleon Dynamite, which also put more emphasis on telling jokes rather than telling a coherent story. At the time of its release, though, Napoleon Dynamite still stood out thanks to its eccentric characters, offbeat humor, and unpredictable nature. Here, Hess just seems to be going through the motions and fails to offer anything new. The result is a below average comedy that, while not without its merits, is fairly forgettable in the long run.