**1/2 (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Jared Hess
STARS Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig
- Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig in Masterminds (Photo: Relativity)
Nobody would ever mistake Masterminds for a good movie — it's sloppy, it's cartoonish, and it takes an incredible and unbelievable true-life tale and needlessly gilds the lily, piling on extra absurdities to the point that any given film in, say, the Shrek or A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise looks like an exercise in cinema verité by comparison. But Masterminds is a comedy first and foremost, and it would be criminal to deny the huge laughs strewn throughout, sneakily exploding like depth charges at random intervals.
The movie is based on the 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery that took place here in Charlotte, and scripters Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Emily Spivey refused to change the names to protect the stupid. Zach Galifianakis plays David Ghantt, a Loomis Fargo employee who's convinced by former co-worker Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig) and her sleazy associate Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) that it would be a good idea to swipe $17 million from the company vaults. A flight to Mexico, a tenacious cop (Leslie Jones), and a wisecracking hit man (Jason Sudeikis) eventually figure in the proceedings.
Three of the four Ghostbusters take part in the film, with Wiig effective as always, Jones doing what she can with a paper-thin role, and Leslie McKinnon amusing as Ghantt's fiancée. Galifianakis and Wilson play more stereotypical hicks, with the former comfortably in his element and the latter trying mighty hard to pretend he's a Southern fried imbecile and even harder to convince viewers that he's a ruthless, loathsome guy. Most of the humor is broad, and, as usual, there's an overreliance on the sort of scatological material that will only crack up fratboys and 5-year-old boys. But there are also some genuine beauties on display, from a hysterical crack name-dropping Kenny Rogers to the hired assassin's attitude toward Chambers' seemingly dim-witted sons. Masterminds may be short on brains, but it's fairly well-stocked when it comes to funny bones.