All I really knew about Masterminds as I went in was that I liked the cast and the trailer made me laugh. I crossed my fingers that that would be enough. I was vaguely aware, however, that the film is based on the true story of one of the largest cash heists in American history. I haven’t researched that incident and, when it happened, I was too young for it to have popped up on my radar, but I would have to assume that the main story points are grounded in truth while the characterizations are pure fiction. At least, I really hope so.
I say that because, as I’m sure you can gather based on the featured players, the characters are a bunch of crazy kooks befitting only of a group of people who are mostly alumnae of Saturday Night Live. They each provide exactly what you expect. Zach Galifianakis as David Ghantt delivers endearing cluelessness, Kristen Wiig’s Kelly is awkward and uncomfortable, Owen Wilson’s Steve is sleazy and smarmy, Kate McKinnon’s Jandice is weird as all heck, Leslie Jones’s detective character is commanding with little self-awareness, and Jason Sudeikis is an ironically caring hitman. They all play their parts and they play them well, though nobody is venturing out of any comfort zones, here. But, typically, audiences want what’s familiar, so I can’t really blame them.
From my personal perspective, the film is pretty funny. There is a lot of character- and situation-based humor, and that happens to be my style. I chuckled quite frequently throughout the picture and the airport disguise (I’ll say no more), in particular, actually hit me right in my funny bone and I got pretty tickled over the absurdity of it. So, I can’t say I really have much to complain about regarding the comedy. And that’s why we go to these types of movies, right? But, it’s all relative. If we have similar senses of humor, you’ll get enjoyment out of it, too. If we don’t, you might not.
The beginning of the movie felt a little mean-spirited towards Galifianakis’s well-meaning simpleton of a character, and I wasn’t too crazy about that playing for laughs. But I also have to remember that this is a zany comedy, not an after-school special and there aren’t intended to be any hidden messages or layered subtext, here. This is simply one of those films that is only meant to be taken at face value. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. At the same time, it makes it tough to write a meaningful post-viewing column about it.
I guess I can say that Masterminds is a palate cleanser right before the Oscar season starts kicking into gear. There’s nothing to analyze. Nothing to provoke deep thought or reflection upon one’s life. No subtle, layered performances to generate award discussion. It’s just a talented group of goofy comedians trying to make their audience laugh and take their minds off of their problems for 90 minutes. That’s it. As with virtually any comedy, half of the people who see it will like it, half who see it won’t, and most will be completely incapable of understanding the perspective of the other and, additionally, unwilling to try. So, just trust yourself. This isn’t a case of Kubo and the Two Strings where the marketing undersold the film or Suicide Squad where the film wasn’t nearly as good as the trailers and TV spots made it out to be. With Masterminds, you can expect 90 minutes of exactly what you’ve seen in the advertising and what you’ve come to expect from this cast. If you like what you’ve seen, so far, check it out. If not, don’t. I trusted myself on this one, and I got exactly what I thought I might.
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