Masterminds [50 New-Old Movies for the 51st Year #19]

A couple of months ago, I turned 50 years old!  And to add to all the real life goals and challenges that that brings, I’ve created at least one as it relates to movies and this blog–watch a film I’ve never seen before which came out in each year of my life (thus the “Old-New” terminology), and then write a bit about it.  This is Post #19.  Spoilers ahead.  


Directed by Jared Hess

Release Date:  September 30, 2016
My age then:  46 years old

What it is about:  Based on a true story, David Ghantt, an employee at an armored car company, gets involved in a scheme to steal millions of dollars. The plan involves him hiding out in Mexico while things cool down, but his accomplice and the mastermind of the, Steve Chambers, first attempts to sacrifice him to the police, and then to kill him. Against all odds, David manages to outwit his adversaries and eventually to expose Chambers, rescuing another accomplice, Kelly Campbell (whom he’s in love with) in the process.

Starring Zach Galifianakis as David Ghantt, Kristen Wiig as Kelly Campbell, Owen Wilson as Steve Chambers, Kate McKinnon as Jandice Gartrell (David fiancée at the start of the movie), Jason Sudeikis as Michael McKinney (the hitman hired to kill David), and Leslie Jones as an FBI agent.

My impressions of this movie before I watched it:  Basically, none, except that it looked like a low-brow comedy. I picked this movie because my original selection for this year, The Girl on the Train, ended up having too much inappropriate content for me to feel comfortable finishing. I later found this movie on one of my streaming services, saw that it fit the year I was looking for, and watched it.

Reality:  Masterminds is not a well-reviewed movie, but certainly I found some laughs in it. I didn’t feel it was a complete waste of time or anything, and although it was certainly “low-brow” and got a bit crude at times, it never crossed the line into something I didn’t feel I could watch.

What’s strangest about the film is the idea that it is a true story. Of course, we all know by now that “based on a true story” doesn’t mean that everything or even most things are based on actual specific incidents. But the fact that the real David Ghantt actually worked as a consultant for the film implies that he was at least all right with how everyone and everything was depicted. This is notable, because everyone is depicted as complete and utter ninnies–Ghantt, his girlfriend, his accomplices, his enemies, the FBI, everyone.

But Ghantt himself is one of those ninnies who has a heart, who is likable in spite of his absurdities. He genuinely loves Kelly, and is legitimately hurt by her betrayal. He adapts quickly when he realizes that he’s in danger, and shows some genuine creativity when he begins to “fight back” against Steve Chambers. These sorts of roles are a bit hard to nail down the balance between the things that make us laugh at the people, and the things that make us sympathize with them. I’m not sure that Zach Galifianakis quite nails it, but he comes close.

This turns out to be a pretty good assessment for the film overall. It’s not completely successful at striking all the tones it’s going for, but it’s still reasonably funny. There are a number of good gags that the movie pulls off very well, and both Kristen Wiig and Owen Wilson are fairly convincing in their roles, as extreme as they are. And Kate McKinnon, as Ghantt’s slightly crazy but beleaguered fiancée (she’s always been funny in anything I’ve seen her in).

So…when you get down to it, what did I think? Not even close to a perfect movie, but it’s still perfectly diverting. It is only an hour and a half long, so it keeps things moving and doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.

See here for the Master List.

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