Masterminds (2016)
Fox // PG-13 // $19.99 // January 31, 2017
Review by William Harrison | posted March 4, 2017
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For all the talent involved in Masterminds, it is surprising the final product is such a lousy movie. Based on the real 1997 robbery of a Loomis Fargo truck in North Carolina, the film is directed by Jared Hess, best known for helming the quickly dated Napoleon Dynamite. Perhaps the three credited writers could not agree on a tone, as the film goes too broad with its comedy. The jokes are too obscure, the slapstick too bizarre to elicit chuckles. Zach Galifianakis plays another schlub here; this time donning a Loomis Fargo employee's duds and driving an armored truck full of money and discontent. Seemingly on a whim, his character gets wrapped up in a conspiracy to knock over his employer. He partners with an attractive female coworker (Kristen Wiig) and her idiot handler (Owen Wilson), and much confusion ensues.

Lest you give these idiots too much credit for concocting this scheme, it is important to note that they simply got the idea from another armored-truck robbery. In an opening voiceover, David Scott Ghantt (Galifianakis) notes that he never thought his life would include excitement until he met Kelly Campbell (Wiig), the aforementioned, attractive coworker. Ghantt is already engaged to Jandice (Kate McKinnon), a trailer-park nightmare with plenty of baggage. In one of the film's only funny scenes, the couple takes bizarre engagement photos to the tune of Enya's "Only Time." Pure moods, indeed. Campbell gets fired for sticking up for Ghantt, and soon finds herself mooching off family, including Eugene Chambers (Wilson). He convinces Campbell to use Ghantt's innocent affections to their benefit, and they convince Ghantt to steal millions of dollars from his employer. Once he does, he travels to Mexico to lay low, but soon finds his stateside co-conspirators are less than responsive.

So much of Masterminds feels like bizarre sketch comedy. Too bad it rarely works. The actors' comedic timing falters over and over again. Despite the presence of SNL alums Wiig, McKinnon and Leslie Jones, as an FBI agent, the movie is starved for laughs. Galifianakis can play a Southern, bumbling idiot in his sleep, but this caricature is growing tiresome. He also plays Ghantt two notches shy of low functioning, and we all know what Tropic Thunder said about that. The real-life roots of this story are actually rather interesting, but Masterminds overwhelms crazy reality with overdone affectations like ridiculous wigs, facial hair and costumes.

Jason Sudeikis is also on hand, playing the hitman hired by Wilson's Chambers to kill Ghantt. Predator and prey end up bonding and turning the tables a bit before Masterminds hits a sad streak when it is revealed that Campbell really is a mean girl. She redeems herself slightly, but I'm not sure what message the movie was shooting for here. The climax in Mexico is chaotic but uninteresting, and the comedy never improves. Too much whimsy, not enough grit. This cast is wasted on mediocre material.



Fox's 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is expectedly excellent, with plenty of fine-object detail and deep wide shots to impress. Early scenes in the bright outdoors offer high contrast without blown-out highlights. Skin tones are accurate and colors nicely saturated. Black levels are strong, and I noticed no major digital hiccups.


The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix offers appropriate back-up to this comedic material. Dialogue is crystal clear and integrated nicely with effects and score. Some light environmental and action effects make use of the surrounds, and the LFE is used appropriately. English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.


This two-disc set includes the Blu-ray and a DVD copy but no digital copies. The discs are packed into an eco-case that is wrapped in a slipcover. The only extras are the Theatrical Trailer (2:16/HD) and The Imperfect Crime (16:30/HD), a decent look at the real actors behind this story.


Based on the true story of a hefty armored-car robbery in North Carolina, Masterminds takes a larger-than-life tale and dilutes it with poorly timed jokes and bizarre slapstick. The cast, including Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig, is wasted on lousy material. Skip It.

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