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Masterminds Review

Another absurdist comedy from Napoleon Dynamite writer-director Jared Hess, Masterminds has been on the shelf for over a year as Relativity Films dealt with a bankruptcy. The comedy stars Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones (yes, that is three-fourths of the new Ghostbusters) and more in a comic recounting of the 1997 Loomis Fargo armored car robbery that took place in North Carolina. 

Despite an extremely weak ad campaign that highlights the movie’s weaknesses as opposed to its strengths, Masterminds mostly works. As patsy David Ghantt, Galifianakis repurposes the fey Southern gentleman persona he used in The Campaign to mostly successful effect. Ghantt gets played by Steve Chambers (the movie’s largest liability, Wilson), aka Geppetto, a small-time criminal who is not quite as smart as he thinks he is, and Wiig’s Kelly Campbell. The duo convinces the armored car driver to rob his employer of $17 million and run off to Mexico. Eventually, Chambers hires Sudeikis’ hitman, Mike McKinney, but that plan goes about as well as everything but the robbery itself.

Masterminds combines Hess’ silly comic sensibilities with a game cast that mostly pulls off what should have seemed ill-advised on the page. “SNL” standout McKinnon flashes the famed crazed wickedness she was lacking in the new Ghostbusters. Her few scenes as Ghantt’s jilted fiancée generate belly laughs; nothing in the movie is as funny as her expressions and poses in the couple’s engagement photos, an idea that would have been at home in Napoleon Dynamite. Sudeikis also shines as a (sort of) kinder, gentler hitman. Something more probably could have come from such an unbelievable true story (imagine what the Coens could have done with this material), but Masterminds still steals more than its fair share of laughs.