Adapting true stories into film can be a tricky business. It’s a balancing act between being accurate to the source as humanly possible, and yet be entertaining to the crowd, and still try to stick to a tone that matches the story.
If you have a surreal kind of story, do you blend in comedy and drama, or go dramatic all the way? Some shows do it well like David Fincher’s Zodiac and Ben Affleck’s Argo, while others, well, they end up being a forced comedy like Masterminds, which plays it safe with the laughs.
Zach Galifianakis (that bearded guy from The Hangover films) plays the meek, by-the-numbers straight man Danny, who works as a Loomis, Fargo & Co. as a vault supervisor who transports huge amounts of cash in an armored car as a day job. He teams up with his co-worker and crush Kelly (played by Kristen Wiig) to pull off a money storage heist, all orchestrated by Kelly’s old friend Steve Chambers (played by Owen Wilson) and his hick goons.
Of course, Danny lays low in Mexico after the heist, unaware of the fact that he’s been set up to be a fall guy by Steve.
Things go south, with the FBI (led by Leslie Jones) on his tail, and a hired killer (Jason Sudeikis in a forced zany role) added in to make things more complicated. Oh, and Kate Mckinnon’s in on the fun too, as Danny’s estranged and soon-to-be hick wife. She’s basically taking her off-kilter performance in the 2016 Ghostbusters, and making it more creepy and unlikable here.
Come to think of it, a lot of the cast members from Ghostbusters 2016 are here… I guess the producers thought they knew who to call….
Despite the stranger than fiction appeal of the news story that this film is based on, this film feels like an afterthought. It is filled with smart actors pretending to be pseudo rednecks, treading the line between idiot savant and just plain idiocy. The slapstick here just isn’t that over-the-top or creative enough, to stand out among other comedies of this year.
While it might be passable for most folks looking to switch their brains off, to watch something feel-good, but it’s bad when your ensemble of actors consists of talent who headline pretty much many of the top comedies made these days.
Speaking of which, at least Zach and company did their best with the material given, though in this case, it’s just them playing stylized versions of their comedy schticks. Owen Wilson is the supposed crime ringleader who turns out to be a nonchalant doofus father. Kristen Wiig’s takes on the half-awkward, half-seductress female lead while Zach Galifianakis is the straight shooter that evolves into a man in charge of his own destiny. You’re just paying good money to see them play off of each other.
But you can’t escape the cliched love story, the rags-to-riches bit, and the key comedy portions that were already spoiled by the recent trailers. From the actual heist in the first third of the film to the “I’m going to buy a heckaton of elaborate tacky expensive stuff” montage, the comedy and edits are serviceable at the very best. It’s really nothing you haven’t seen before, if you’ve already had your fill of comedies this year.
Masterminds is content with being nothing more than a gathering of renowned comedy actors doing by-the-numbers skits, but with the added true story adaptation schtick. To many, it’s harmless fun. To others hoping that such an ensemble could bring us something memorable and talked about for months to come? Sorry, but this is nowhere near the Golden Age of a fresh Judd Apatow flick, or even the first Anchorman?