I’m still laughing the day after seeing “Masterminds,” the latest wackadoodle comedy from director Jared Hess. This one is an audience divider for sure (our screening had a walkout), but if you enjoyed any of Hess’ previous work (“Nacho Libre,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Gentlemen Broncos“), you’ll probably like this one.
The bizarre humor is targeted to a very, very specific audience (during most of our busy screening, Matt and I were the only two people in the audience who were laughing), and those who are familiar with the Southern way of life will find an even deeper appreciation of the humor. I laughed heartily and consistently throughout the movie from beginning to end, and I have no qualms declaring “Masterminds” not only one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years but THE funniest movie of 2016.
This action / comedy is loosely based on the true story of David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis), a regular Joe who works (well, used to work) for an armored transport company in North Carolina in the late 1990s. When David develops an unrequited crush on co-worker Kelly (Kristen Wiig), she and her white trash criminal friend Steve (Owen Wilson) lure him into robbing the company. Turns out, this robbery was one of the biggest in U.S. history with a record-breaking $17 million stolen by this one dude and his not-so-smart ‘masterminds’ behind the operation.
This is wacky niche comedy done correctly, and the film never hits a wrong note with its bumbling quirkiness. It’s loaded with very physical slapstick comedy and perfectly ridiculous deadpan humor. You have to pay attention to discover and appreciate the humor, it’s not spelled out for you.
Galifianakis is funny to look at anyway, but watching him prance around in a 60s cowboy outfit while strutting down the street in Mexico is campy gold. Add in the pedigreed supporting cast and you’ve got yourself the perfect comedy. There are reliably kooky turns from Jason Sudeikis as a slightly inept lunkheaded hitman, Leslie Jones as a sass-talking special agent, Kate McKinnon as a flatulent weirdo (seriously, this lady is a national comedy treasure), and an all too brief stint from Ken Marino as an FBI informant neighbor. With a cast like this, you can’t go wrong.
This movie is darkly funny and loaded with white trash jokes that are riotous because they are based in truth. (Just wait until you see Steve’s high-rise double wide). This movie reminds me so much of this year’s hysterical “The Bronze,” only without the vulgarity.
Without a doubt this is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen, and I will be quoting it for the rest of my life. I was laughing so hard that I had tears streaming down my face more than a handful of times (yes, really). I highly encourage you to see this one if you laugh at the absurd.
They say that truth is stranger than fiction. They also say that “Masterminds,” the new movie from director Jared Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite“, “Gentleman Broncos“) is based on a true story. How much of it is true and how much of it is fiction I don’t know, but what I do know is this: “Masterminds” is one wild, hilariously funny movie. And boy is it ever strange.
Zach Galifianakis plays David Ghantt, a southern boy with very low ambitions who works for an armored car company. David becomes infatuated with sometime coworker Kelly (Kristen Wiig), who on behalf of her friend Steve (Owen Wilson) talks David in to stealing money from the company vault. $17 million worth, to be exact, making it one of the largest cash robberies ever on American soil. The actual theft goes off unusually well; it’s what happens after, when the co-conspirators must face the reality of having suddenly become obscenely wealthy, that things start to get really crazy.
And I do mean crazy. Masterfully madcap crazy. These good ol’ boys and girls from North Carolina, having spent most of their lives in trailer parks (including a “high rise double wide”), have absolutely no self-control. David gets shipped off to Mexico by the crew with a very small cut of the money while the others live the high life, the kind of which these formerly poor rednecks could only dream about. As the southern folks would say, they are “country come to town.” They spend extravagantly, buy expensive toys, and wear “fancy” clothes. When they become worried that Ghantt is going to finger them for their participation in the robbery, they hire the services of an insane and inept hit man to take him out of the picture. Put simply, they can’t cope with being rich and act like fools.
I’m not from the South but Louisa is. Having lived with her for a long time, I think I have a better idea than most about Southern culture. Having this perspective is probably essential to appreciating “Masterminds,” which has a bit of a Foxworthian sense of humor. Not that all of the jokes are cultural, necessarily; there are quite a few bits that are funny all on their own, without reference to background.
As a comedy, “Masterminds” is incredibly well-constructed. The characters are not one-dimensional and the film expertly walks the line between playing to stereotypes and devolving into caricature. Scenes are set up and people act according to type and personality, and the comedy flows naturally from it. Galifianakis is perfectly cast as Ghantt, playing the part with a pitch-perfect sense of timing and delivery. Wiig is reliably strong but is easily outshined by her “Ghostbusters” costar Kate McKinnon. Jason Sudeikis is hilarious as the hitman, and Ken Marino is given very little to do but has one of the best side-splitting scenes in the movie.
I realize humor is subjective. Many people are going to scratch their heads at “Masterminds,” and lots of people won’t enjoy it (our screening featured only one outright walkout but Louisa and I were mostly the only ones laughing). Having given you that warning, I will say with confidence: “Masterminds” not only tops “The Bronze” as the funniest movie of 2016, it is one of the funniest movies of this decade.