It’s a comedy about thievery, so we can safely presume that Masterminds must have been robbed of its laughs.
This lackluster effort combines three-fourths of the cast from the Ghostbusters remake and tosses in some true-life source material courtesy of a massive 1997 heist of more than $17 million from an armored truck, resulting in strained low-brow mayhem that’s more obnoxious than endearing.
The unlikely central figure in the misdeeds is David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis), a geeky driver for an armored truck company who lives in a double-wide with his oddball wife (Kate McKinnon) and whose crush on a flirtatious co-worker, Kelly (Kristen Wiig) winds up getting him into trouble.
That’s because after Kelly leaves the job, her boyfriend (Owen Wilson) hatches a scheme to steal millions after hours from the company’s vault, but he needs a pawn willing to help on the inside. Cue the gullible David, who agrees to help only after being promised that Kelly would join him in Mexico when it’s all over. Things get complicated from there, especially when David confronts an eccentric assassin (Jason Sudeikis) sent to minimize involvement from the authorities.
The actual robbery and conspiracy — which made headlines at the time for being one of the largest heists ever committed on American soil — featured some twists that are indeed ripe for a comic treatment.
However, director Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) and a trio of screenwriters decide against deadpan quirkiness or edgy satire, instead opting for a barrage of broad slapstick that tires quickly. For example, a recurring gag involves things going into, and emerging from, David’s derriere.
Regardless of how funny you find Galifianakis’ ridiculous haircut, or his ridiculous Southern accent, or his ridiculous outfits, or his ridiculous expressions, the bumbling gooftball routine wears thin well before the final credits (including outtakes, of course) roll.
The rest of the ensemble cast competes for the meager giggles provides in the ill-conceived script with some over-the-top mugging, and most have proven themselves capable of much better elsewhere. The bottom line is that there’s no room for sympathy among these greedy dimwits regardless of their intentions.
Whether it’s trying to be a screwball farce or a from-the-headlines caper, Masterminds commits to neither and instead settles awkwardly in the middle. That’s the real crime.