The perpetrators of the infamous 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery were stupid, but one of them didn’t rock a Prince Valiant ’do. The same perpetrator — pawn-turned-fall-guy David Ghantt, played by Zach Galifianakis — also probably didn’t try to disguise himself by wearing anaconda-eye contacts, or let loose a gastrointestinal apocalypse in a Mexican hotel pool. These are the wacky and/or gross touches Jared Hess, the maker of “Napoleon Dynamite,” brings to “Masterminds.” It’s a comedy that takes a true tall tale already absurd enough and adds garish hair stylings, a catfight involving vaginal cream as a weapon and a joke about how supporting player Leslie Jones looks like a dude, which might have been funny had real-life crappy human Milo Yiannopoulos not gotten there first.
The true story itself would work fine as a ridiculous, savage comedy — a real-life “Burn After Reading” — and with only minor tweaks. Galifianakis’ David is a hapless armored car driver who agrees to play the inside man on a robbery at his job, which will net the gang of thieves some $17 million. He does it for love — or his feelings for a former colleague (Kristen Wiig) who’s only using him so some friends (led by Owen Wilson’s Steve Chambers) can score a big booty. David doesn’t know Steve was always planning to set him up. Steve, meanwhile, tries to keep a low profile — until he can’t help himself from blowing cash money on a Scarface-ian mansion, a sweet BMW and a leather painting of Elvis.
That, amazingly, is all true, and coincidentally not the funniest part of “Masterminds.” But usually it tries too hard to punch up already killer material. It adds a monologuing psycho hitman (Jason Sudeikis), a hostage situation and a birthday party shoot-’em-up climax with cars blowing up. Hess, who directed but did not write, always tries too hard, but he brings something worthwhile to the project: The ceaseless mockery of his characters is always mixed with affection. We’re all idiots, his movies say, and that keeps “Masterminds” from turning into a depressingly cynical jag like Michael Bay’s similar “Pain & Gain.” Instead, even characters who do bad — including a couple who wears matching adult braces (ho ho) — are ever so slightly redeemed. Still, does the world need more poop gags?
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