Thursday, September 29, 2016
Ever since he debuted with 2004's cultishly adored Napoleon Dynamite, Jared Hess has been cranking out broad comedies about loveable losers whose ineptitude is magnified to the point of absurdity. As in his other films, the humor in Masterminds often curdles into reverse-snobbish condescension toward its too-dumb-to-live characters. But this one spends more time than its predecessors in a comic sweet spot, thanks to a gifted cast that milks moments of inspired slapstick, goofiness, and pathos from a script whose thin, generic arc seems engineered to encourage improv.
Based—presumably very loosely—on a true story, Masterminds is a heist caper on helium. Dave Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) is in a safe but stultifying rut when his former colleague, Kelly (Kristen Wiig), takes advantage of his huge crush on her, convincing him to be the inside man for a robbery of the armored-vehicle company where he still works. Kelly's accomplices—her friend, Steve (Owen Wilson), and his wife, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Ellis)—only get contempt from the filmmakers as they splurge on a series of rapidly escalating indulgences after the heist, many of their purchases as pointedly low-class as the KFC chicken they serve a guest in their kitsch-stuffed mansion.
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