When it comes to the current crop of comedic A list Hollywood actors, Zach Galifianakis may be the most reliable of the bunch. Though somewhat overexposed in the wake of widespread Hangover mania, Galifianakis has proven with smaller roles in critical hits like Birdman, and his more esoteric TV work in Bored To Death, that he’s no wacky flash in the pan. Now in the wake of the Louis CK produced alt comedy triumph Baskets, Zach Galifianakis returns to the big screen, bringing some current and former SNL cast members along for the ride in the 90’s based, sort-of true, cringe comedy heist epic Masterminds.
David Ghantt is your typical Galifianakis protagonist, a sad sack armored car driver under the trailer park thumb of a horrible bride to be (Kate McKinnon, scene stealing, as always), whose life is somewhat brightened by his crush on coworker Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig), only to see her quit in spectacular fashion, leaving him once again hopeless. When Campbell falls in with a “bad crowd” who reside in a double wide trailer literally held together with what looks like electrical tape, led by Owen Wilson’s Steve Chambers, they devise a plan to use the dim witted trust Ghantt has gained from the company (he’s the only non-manager with a key) to rob them blind of 17 million dollars, at the time the largest sum of money ever stolen.
Usually in heist movies (like The Italian Job, The Bank Job, and even ones that have nothing to do with Jason Statham) it’s all about the planning and execution, but Masterminds focuses mostly on the aftermath (not to say that that said planning and execution aren’t also present and absurdly hilarious), with Galifianakis laying low in Mexico and becoming more and more incredulous as Wiig and Wilson’s excuses for not joining him as planned and cutting him in on more of the profits, respectively, become increasingly ridiculous and unbelievable. Along the way Leslie Jones stands out as an FBI Agent investigating the case (tipped off by the spending habits of a never funnier Wilson, clad in braces and captaining a Geo with monster truck tires) and Jason Sudeikis damn near steals the whole movie as a bumbling hitman sent after Galifianakis by Wilson when (I doubt this is actually a spoiler) things go completely south.
Masterminds has been on the shelf for over a year due to the well-publicized financial woes of production and distribution company Relativity Media, and while it’s no Hangover or Bridesmaids level phenomenon in the making, it is a very, very funny movie, and the fact that even the most faint outline of the events depicted here really happened is just the icing on the cake. The squirm-worthy, anti-nostalgic 90’s milieu (Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess spreading his awkward wings) is almost worth the price of admission itself. It’s nice to be reminded that the 90’s weren’t all Super Metroid and Superunknown, horrors abound in the (first, presumably) Clinton era, and who better to remind us of stone washed jorts and shoulder mounted CD wallets than Zach Galifianakis.
Masterminds is in theaters 9/30.