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.
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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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