A trashy kissing cousin to the Coens’ beloved crime comedy Raising Arizona, Masterminds doubles down on the dumbness, endearingly. Writer-director Jared Hess mined a certain kind of wood-paneled, mouth-breathing weirdness for his 2004 breakout Napoleon Dynamite. This time—working from a script by Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Emily Spivey—Hess dives deeply into the ass crack of suburban North Carolina, finding lowbrow caricature courtesy his two wonderfully shameless lead actors, Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig. They play armored-car-driving coworkers, the latter tempting the former into criminality via a garbage fire of bared cleavage and temptation.
Not so surprisingly, the $17 million caper comes from a true story: the 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery that became known as the “hillbilly heist,” so called for the half-smart maneuvering (and lavish velvet-Elvis-painting spending) of its players. Hess assembles a perfect cast to bring such impulses to life: Masterminds works best if you can let yourself get high off the secondary fumes supplied by a spaced-out Kate McKinnon as a casually cruel fiancée, or an aggro Owen Wilson as a trailer-park schemer. The movie lacks the visual snap that would push the humor into next-level American satire. Still, you can’t help but laugh at scenes that could be mini-cartoons in themselves: Galifianakis twirling in glee in front of the one security camera he forgot to smash, or keeping a low Mexican profile (“pour fay-vor,” he implores the locals) in a crimson cowboy outfit.
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