Unfunny ‘Masterminds’ is a Complete Waste of Talent

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CHICAGO – Tick…tick…tick. That is the sound of your life frittering away, if you choose to experience the 94 minutes, that feels like two weeks, for “Masterminds.” The film that has virtually no laughs – in categorizing itself as a comedy – and is an almost criminal waste of some decent comic talent.

Here is what I’d rather see the cast do for 94 minutes than watch them in this film. With Zach Galifianakis, have him riff on how hard it is to spell his last name without looking. With Kristen Wiig, let’s do a lunch with her talking about women in comedy, followed by a mani-pedi. Owen Wilson and I would have a zen yoga session, followed by necessary career counseling. A filmed table read of the script – credited to three screenwriters – would have yielded at least ten more laughs than the film, that would be ten more than zero.

Based on a “true story,” Zach G. portrays David Ghantt, a schlub who works as an armored car driver. He is getting married to (what seems like) a mentally challenged woman named Jandice (Kate McKinnon), but has a crush on his new co-worker Kelly (Kristen Wiig). When Kelly is fired, she retreats back to a double wide trailer owned by Steve (Owen Wilson), and a plan is hatched to rob the armored car company of cash, using David as the insider.

Bang Bang Shoot Shoot: Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig in ‘Masterminds’
Photo credit: Relativity Media

Basically Kelly seduces David to do the job, and he completes the heist, based on the promise that she will join him in Mexico once the heat dies down. Wanting to keep the money and get rid of the middle man, Steve decides to send a wacky assassin (Jason Sudeikis) to kill David. All the while, the chief investigator for the FBI (Leslie Jones) cannot close in on the perpetrators of the crime.

This is like the worst no-laugh episode of “Saturday Night Live,” with Zach and Owen co-hosting. There is no material within the script that is funny, so the comedians in the film are sweating bullets trying to come up with bits. Zach G. also does a similar southern accent that he did in “The Campaign,” which is smacking of an odd obsession (he is originally from North Carolina).

Competent comedians like Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon are uncomfortably numbed by this bad script. Wiig’s “trailer trash” girl is obviously as fake as her painted on torso tattoo and white teeth, and she could wring no laughs out of the stereotype. Kate McKinnon is a strange actor, because like the recent “Ghostbusters” she makes a decision about how a character will be the entire time, and doesn’t deviate from it throughout the whole film. It’s a surrealistic pillow to lie on, but not enough to save this film.

Owen Wilson seems content to play his off-kilter stoner boy into oblivion, and could have been filmed taken a nap and it might have been more interesting than his character. Jason Sudeikis pretends that having a rakish mustache is enough excuse to make jokes about killing people (ha-ha). Will an old Mexican musket he uses backfire? Bang, zoom!

Why is That Woman Laughing? Jason Sudeikis and Zach G. in ‘Masterminds’
Photo credit: Relativity Media

The oddest thing about the film might be the robbery itself. Number one, why would a remote location – as indicated in the setting – have that much cash on hand? Why would the robbery, which ends after two hours with Zach G. smashing the money van through a loading dock – very loudly – then crashing into a fence, not draw any attention? As depicted, the burglary would be solved in five seconds, but in real life they got away with it? The true story has to be better than excruciatingly trying to fit a comedy around it, like trying on a shoe two sizes too small, with a similar uncomfortable feel.

This is the type of film where the audience is so silent, the clicks of the edit points can be heard, supposedly covering up for the laughter that never comes. Yes, there are outtakes in the end, and they are funnier than the whole movie. In this case, their screw-ups were better than their finished product. Thanks Obama.

”Masterminds” opens everywhere on September 30th. Featuring Zach Galifianakis, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Owen Wilson and Leslie Jones. Screenplay by Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Emily Spivy. Directed by Jared Hess. Rated “PG

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2016 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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