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Masterminds **

A gross gross-out comedy with a modicum of thought.

Is it worth $10? No

Let me be clear, "Masterminds" is awful. It's juvenile, ridiculous, and gross, oh so very gross. But it's not completely terrible. Oh, I hated it all right. Every stupid pratfall and gross out gag grated on my nerves like fingers on a chalkboard. But most of what I hated was not due to ineptitude or carelessness. It was there on purpose, carefully crafted by a director whose sense of humor simply does not connect with mine. And, as unbearable as I found it, I have to admit that there were a few things that elevated it beyond a level of pure contempt.

Set in late '90s, North Carolina, the film stars Zach Galifianakis as David Ghantt, a milquetoast (complete with pageboy haircut) armored truck driver who, despite being engaged, has a severe crush on his co-worker Kelly (a wasted Kristen Wiig). After quitting her job, Kelly, influenced by petty criminal and general ne'er do well Steven (a wasted Owen Wilson. Sense a trend here?), convinces David to rob the truck company. He pulls off the heist and hides out in Mexico, waiting for Kelly to join him. Steven has other ideas, though, and betrays him to the FBI, and when that doesn't pan out, he sends a psychopathic killer, Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis), after him. With the law and a hit man closing in, David has to use his wits (such as they are) to extricate himself from the mess he's in.



David is a rube. He's such an idiot that it's hard to watch him and sit still. The hook, though, is that as the plot unfolds, he begins to show a bit of ingenuity and actually manages to somewhat take control of the situations spiraling out around him. By the time the film reaches its finale, I was actually rooting for him. Of course, I was also rooting for the movie to be over, so maybe my wires just got crossed.

But, yes, the filmmakers do make a valiant attempt, at times, to show that David has a smarter side to go along with his stupidity. During the robbery, for instance, he locks himself in the back of the armored truck with all the money. Stupid. Then he uses duct tape (what it was doing in the car in the first place, I do not know. But I'm trying to be nice, so I'll ignore that) and money packs to build a lever which he uses to drive the van from the back. Smart? Kind of.

The fact that he has some ingenuity makes his character a little more bearable, but only just. The rest of the characters, though, barely register, like Kristen Wiig's Kelly, who starts out promisingly with some personality but then quickly descends into stupidity, constantly caving in to Wilson's Steve, no matter how stupid his reasoning. The fact that she then just becomes a damsel in distress for David to rescue does neither the movie nor her character any favors either.



Out of the rogues gallery of idiots and miscreants, only Jason Sudeikis and Kate McKinnon, the latter as David's whacked out, jilted fiancée, stand out. Sudeikis is quite funny with an affected, deep southern drawl and a predilection for violence. Where the script takes his character is also surprising. Kate McKinnon, on the other hand, creates a character so odd I'm disappointed she wasn't used more. She's hilarious with her permanently plastered smile, blank stare, and disaffected voice. It's a shame she only has a handful of scenes, the last of which culminates in a fight that leaves her with vaginal cream squirted in her mouth. Ugh.

And that's the kind of humor we're dealing with in this movie. People either fall down, do gross stuff, or have gross stuff happen to them. Funny? Not so much to me, but I, once again, defer to the audience at my screening. They laughed quite a bit. One day, though, someone will have to explain to me why a person simply falling down is the height of hilarity. Yes, when Buster Keaton does it, it's funny. When Zach Galafianakis does it, not so much. Falling down isn't funny in and of itself, it's the way you fall down that is, and Galafianakis (an otherwise good comedian) is no Buster Keaton.

I'll spare you the gorier details of the rest of the film's humor. Rest assured, this is not a comedy for everybody. Which is better, I guess, than a comedy that's not for anybody. Coming from director Jared Hess, who brought us "Napoleon Dynamite," this film traffics in the type of humor he apparently loves best. If that's appealing to you, and there's no shame in that, enjoy. Still, with its indifferent cinematography, waste of talented actors, and a script that doesn't quite build, this is a flawed movie, compatible humor or not. So, if you're looking for a movie with a little more substance and a little less, you know, gross, this isn't the film for you, and it certainly isn't the one for me.

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