One can usually tell how funny a comedy is by its trailers. If they keep repeating a few scenes, it means there weren’t enough good jokes to go around.
The trailers for “Masterminds,” the new comedy based off real events, are 90 percent the same. Which is not a good sign.
In the halcyon days of 1997, armored car driver David Gant, played by Zach Galifianakis, stole over $17 million in the largest armored car heist in U.S. history. Gant and his partners were captured in short order, due in large part to their own incompetence, such as the partners freely spending their ill-gotten gains with no thought to the giant money trail they were leaving behind.
Sadly, the movie based off the story is nowhere near that interesting. More importantly, it’s not very funny either.
To the actor’s credit, there are good performances here. Galifianakis portrays Gant as a good-hearted, if somewhat dim, 30-something who wants to do something grand. Kate McKinnon is the MVP as Gant’s little seen but terrifying fiance, whose performance is easily the best because it’s the most subtle, conveyed solely through line delivery and expressions.
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast suffers, often through no fault of their own. Kristen Wiig does her best as Kelly, Gant’s one-sided crush, who first manipulates Gant into the heist before she starts falling for him for real, but the script gives her very little to work with. Her blossoming romance with Gant feels like something a bunch of underpaid writers threw together rather than something that really happened, which is a serious problem when it’s the underlying emotional narrative. Jason Sudeikis also suffers in his role as “hilarious” hitman Mike McKinney, whose antics feel too forced to be funny.
The biggest problem the film has is that the script is just not that good. The humor runs the gamut from dark to gross-out to physical, but none of it hits the mark, and a lot of it feels too exaggerated to be really funny, like a kid deliberately pratfalling. The best example would probably be the heist itself. At one point Gant starts stumbling over himself while loading up the money. We’re supposed to believe it’s because of his growing excitement combined with clumsiness, but it’s so over-the-top that it feels more like he’s suffering from muscle spasms.
Most of the performances are just fine, except for maybe Owen Wilson, who portrays snarky, dim-witted mastermind Steve the same way he’s portrayed every other role he’s ever had, but the weak writing cuts it all off at the knees.
The outtakes at the very end before the credits are the some of the funniest scenes from the film, because the actors are going off script and naturally reacting to each other.
The film, to it’s credit, is short, punchy and doesn’t waste much time in any one scene. The film is also surprisingly accurate, at least in the details of the heist itself, which can probably be attributed to having to the real-life Gant as consultant.
But for the most part, the film will not make you laugh. It won’t make you cringe either. This movie will make you do nothing except sit there and watch until it’s over, at which point you’ll probably forget you ever saw it.