Did this movie go through production hell or something? I swear, I’d been seeing trailers for this since early on in the year.
So… based on a true story! No, I’m not kidding. I didn’t know this until the opening titles started rolling, and even then I was like, “Um… please don’t rip off FARGO . You’re not a true story. Just shut up and get on with it.” Well… it is. It really is. Details below.
Well, I guess not all true stories have to be depressingly and dramatic, saying something to try to teach the world a little somethin’ somethin’. Some just need the good ole comedy-touch. Well, once again, I am not familiar with the real life events. This all happened in 1997 and I was, what, eight-years-old at the time? I was still watching RUGRATS and ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE on TV, and reading Peanuts and Get Fuzzy in the papers. I didn’t care about adult stuff (not much has changed, really). But honestly, I can’t imagine that this movie claims to be accurate, nor was I holding out for it to be very good.
Let’s take a look at the cast, which stars Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, and Jason Sudeikis. In the past, I wasn’t a fan of Galifianakis. Since his huge rise to comedic star power in the popular 2009 film THE HANGOVER (I didn’t like it that much), he’s pretty much stuck to that role: the fat guy who says all the dumb-yet-funny things… which to me always translated to just dumb-unfunny things. He was basically Steve Carrell with a beard at the time. But unlike Carrell, Galifianakis stayed the same for the longest time. It wasn’t until his surprise turn in BIRDMAN (2014) that revealed to me that he actually can act if given the right material. Hence my beliefs that there’s no such thing as a bad actor, just bad scripts and directing. Granted, he hasn’t done many films outside the Hangover series, other than bit parts in other films or sticking to TV shows, I’ve found myself more open to his work and I thought this film would be fairly decent. Wiig… man, I want to be a fan of hers, I really do. I see incredible comedy talent in her, but with the exception of BRIDESMAIDS (2011), I just haven’t found her funny if she’s the main lead. In her supporting roles, like the How to Train Your Dragon series, she’s a riot. And I’m sure she’s amazing on SNL and her various other TV works, but her films are pretty hit or miss, and I’m still washing the bad taste of GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) out of my mouth (not that I blame her for how bad that movie was). I really wanted this to be what finally ropes me into her mass popularity. Wilson… well, everyone’s got a funny impersonation of the guy, but say what you want about him, he’s a funny dude in my opinion. WEDDING CRASHERS (2005), DRILLBIT TAYLOR (2008), even his more dramatic stuff like MARLEY & ME (2008), come on. He’s a good actor. Finally Sudeikis. I’ve become a fan of his in recent years and has been the saving grace in a lot of underwhelming movies. While other people may have been fans of his due to him being an SNL alum, I’m definitely trying to jump aboard the bandwagon.
Now, how about behind the scenes. Directing is Jared Hess, whom hasn’t directed much in his career, but many will recognize titles like NAPOLEAN DYNAMITE (2004) and NACHO LIBRE (2006). But he’s slated to direct the third installment to the Shanghai Noon movies, SHANGHAI DAWN and NICTOONS, for you 90’s Nickelodeon fans. Scary enough, this film has three writers attached: Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, and Emily Spivey, which to me means different styles of comedy creating a messy result. Both Bowman and Palmer haven’t written much, but they did write at least one episode of the animated TV show NAPOLEAN DYNAMITE and both co-wrote the upcoming flick MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE (2016). Spivey is the more veteran writer of the group, having a long and steady writing career, mostly in television, such as SNL, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, and my personal favorite, UP ALL NIGHT.
I went in with some pretty cautious expectations. I was hoping to be surprised, but bracing for brutality. How did it turn out? This is my honest opinion of MASTERMINDS.
Based on true events, set in 1997. David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) is a respected armored truck driver, but longs for a life of action and adventure, like an action hero. But his life is pretty boring. That all changes when he meets his new partner, Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig), a hardcore, attitude-wielding broad with a heart as sweet as her lollipops, and David instantly falls for her. She thinks he’s sweet and likes working with him, but doesn’t take to him like he does to her. Well, she soon gets fired for incompetence and David is alone on the job again. But that doesn’t last long as a long-time associate of hers, Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson), hatches a plan to rob a bank and get rich. They decide to use Davis’s crush on Kelly to use him, since he is the only non-manager to have access to the bank’s vault, without ever knowing Steve’s true identity. The plan works like a charm and when David steals the money, he told to high-tail it to Mexico where Kelly says she’ll join him in time. But as time passes, Kelly never joins him and David soon learns the true identity of Steve. Using this information to blackmail Steve out of more money, or he’ll turn himself in as well as everyone involved in the heist. In retaliation, Steve hires a hitman named Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis) to kill David. So begins a game of wits and cat-and-mouse.
While I’m pretty sure “based on true events” is a pretty loose phrase with this movie, so don’t expect an accurate depiction, I have to admit that I didn’t hate it. It’s nothing hilarious or spectacular, but there’s enough good elements to keep it from being a waste of time.
Like I said before, Galifianakis isn’t my favorite funny man. This isn’t entirely different, but I think what sets this apart from his usual roles is that his character is written a little better than usual. While he still plays a dim-witted idiot with a good heart, his character does occasionally make good decisions. When he finds out Steve’s true identity, he threatens not to just turn him in, but he’s willing to turn himself in as well. Typically, you have to trudge the whole, “I’ll turn you in for what you’ve done,” “You can’t do that without implicating yourself,” routine, which is annoying as hell. He’s not afraid to do the right thing… despite him willing to do very illegal things for a pair of tits, but I guess that’s beside the point. Ultimately, he’s not a bad guy. He’s a doofus, an idiot, but a romantic and a willingness to set things right. Worse characters have been made in comedies.
While Wiig and Wilson do fine for what they’re given, they’re just sort of stock characters that you’ve seen before, the one actor that really stands out for me is, of course, Sudeikis. By god, this man can be a hitman in a comedy or a drama, and he’d make it work on both ends. All he’s missing from his résumé is a musical… as a hitman. Why did this feel like a match made in Heaven?! He’s just so engaging. His voice is all deep and intimidating. There’s this scene where he’s in Mexico and he’s sizing up his collection of firearms, shotguns, SMGs, and chooses a rickety old musket of all things. Seriously, gunpowder and ram rod, the whole enchilada. It doesn’t go as planned, which makes the situation all the more hilarious. Just UGH why do I not watch SNL?! Sudeikis steals the show for me.
And while most of the comedy isn’t really that funny, mostly just jokes that are easy, some were surprisingly smart. There’s this scene where David meets Kelly for the first time since her departure from the job and are including him on the plan with Steve sitting with his back to him, so he doesn’t know what he looks like. During the conversation, Steve tells David to call him, “Geppetto,” because he’s the one who pulls the strings. But then David says, “That’s Stromboli. Geppetto was the puppet maker. Stromboli was the puppet master.” I was downright floored. I didn’t expect this low-brow comedy to make a semi-intelligent observation. Too bad the rest of the dialog and humor wasn’t like that or this movie would have been pretty solid.
Now despite mostly likable performances, the film still isn’t good as a whole.
Again, I really REALLY want to like Kate McKinnon. I really do. But I’m starting to think that I want to see the best of her, I really do need to start watching TV because she is just not funny to me. First GHOSTBUSTERS, now here. She is trying way too hard and it comes off as awkward to me. Does she just get really shitty directors? Who’s telling her to not be funny?! When anyone talked about how funny she was, I don’t see it. What’s the joke? That she’s incredibly monotoned and robotic, yet still smiling? What’s so funny about that? She doesn’t say anything funny. I guess that’s maybe her thing. She has quirky mannerisms that everyone seems drawn to, but I can’t get into this woman. I really want to be, but I can’t.
But I do concede that her fight scene with Wiig was pretty damn entertaining.
And there’s that scene. It lasts for a split second, but it’s there and drives me absolutely up the fucking walls. Those of you that know me really well know exactly what I’m talking about. The bit in the montage when David farts in the pool and shits everywhere. I am so ungodly grateful that I didn’t spend money on this, or I would have thrown such a fucking fit. For those of you that don’t know, bodily waste used for comedic purposes is the easiest way for me to hate a movie. At best, no matter how funny your movie may be, will be just okay. Never good. Good movies, even solid movies, would never resort to that brand of humor. It’s disgusting, grotesque, whatever adjective and adverb you want to give it, anything synonymous to “funny” is out of the god damn mother fucking question. It leaves the most rotten taste in my mouth and I hate those jokes so fucking much.
This movie isn’t good. Aside from that one thing, McKinnon gets a little too much screen time for my taste, and generally speaking, the movie just isn’t really funny. Yes, some jokes worked, but it’s like if you made 100 jokes and only three of them were funny, how funny was your movie really? The core cast does fine, but the writing is very subpar. I may not agree with RottenTomatoes (36% as of 10/5/2016), but I can see where they’re comimng from. I’m closer with IMDb (5.7/10 as of 10/5/2016), so viewer beware.
My honest rating for MASTERMINDS: a weak 3/5
- AMERICAN HONEY
- trailer: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3721936/?ref_=nv_sr_2
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYcx43AmAyY