Review – Funny Wiig’s Not Enough (“Masterminds”)

Based on a true story“. Anytime you see that in a film you have to beware. Either the filmmakers went with the truth or they really embellished the story and added a lot of silliness to try to make the original story better than the factual one. BTW: you get three of the four Ghostbuster chicks in this!
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Zach Galifianakis and Kristin Wiig star as two goofy Loomis-Fargo armored car employees, circa 1997. Actually, everyone in this movie isn’t exactly the smartest tool in the shed, know what I mean? Anyway, David Scott Ghantt (
Galifianakis wearing his trademark beard and a truly heinous mop-top wig) is a hillbilly doofus that, aside from being engaged to Jandice, his zoned-out fiancé (Kate McKinnon), is stoned in love with his co-worker, Kelly Campbell (Wiig). David longs for the good life and, as luck would have it, that’s about to land right in his lap.

After Kelly is fired, her crooked friend, Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson), masterminds a plan where David steals money from his work and then flees to Mexico. David, wooed by Kelly’s good looks and overt sexual advances, is mesmerized into pulling off the heist and rips off a whopping $17 million in cold hard cash, the largest ever in history. With a cool $20,000, David leaves for Mexico to lay low until the heat is off and he can come back to enjoy the rest of the pilfered dough. BUT! Chambers and his greedy wife and co-horts decide to spend the millions like there was no tomorrow: extravagant cars, a luxury mansion and clothes, and a black velvet painting of Elvis!

All this alerts the eyes of two FBI agents (Leslie Jones and Jon Daly) who suspect David and Kelly, but need more evidence. Meanwhile, David is having problems in Mexico with Interpol after him, not to mention Steve hiring a truly inept hit-man (Jason Sudeikis) to kill David to keep him quiet; that last plan backfiring in a most unusual way. With all hell breaking loose back home and his ‘sweetheart’ Kelly in trouble, David risks coming home to get his money and free Kelly from the diabolical clutches of Steve.

Written like an extended SNL skit that goes on too long, the screenplay by Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, and Emily Spivey (all TV writers) has a herky-jerky pace to it with some genuinely funny moments to it, followed by equally hum-drum slow paces of frustration where you’re waiting for something to happen. The best moments are Jones really kicking it up a notch for her short cameos and the brilliant Wiig, playing the oh-so charming/ clueless Kelly. Galifianakis, with a hick accent and that awful Muppet wig is great, having replaced Jim Carrey who dropped out earlier.

Directed by Napoleon Dynamite’s Jared Hess, the action and timing, along with the camera set up, ranges from mediocre to almost amateurish. Hess really didn’t try to do anything special here to boost the ordinary script, and therefore the tempo lagged in many places. However, Hess did add some very funny Charlie Chaplin/Keystone Cops slapstick gags to draw out some much needed chuckles.

After I read the true account of what really happened, I can see why the screenwriters embellished and ‘punched-up’ the storyline. The real story of the heist is pretty cut ‘n’ dry, with all the people involved getting arrested quickly and David not having anywhere near the adventures he had in this movie. Yeah, this movie is way sillier and outrageous than real life, but then again, it had it to be.

After The Fox (1966)

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One of the rare gems that comedic icon Peter Sellers did in his early career was this little known Italian import written by noted Broadway playwright Neil Simon and directed by Italy’s favorite director, Vittortio DeSica. If you get a chance to see it, you won’t be disappointed.

We begin with a $3 million gold bullion hijacking in Cairo, but the thieves need a way to smuggle the two tons of gold bars into Europe. There are only four master criminals considered able to smuggle the gold and they’re all idiots: a Frenchman, so crippled he can barely move his wheelchair; an Irishman, so nearsighted that he is arrested after trying to hold up a police station instead of a bank; a German, so fat he can barely get through a door, and Aldo Vanucci (Sellers), aka The Fox, a master criminal with a talent for disguise.

Vanucci cleverly escapes from prison and, after finding out about his sister’s (Seller’s real-life wife, Britt Ekland) wild life at home, is ready to accept the gold smuggling contract. Meanwhile, two policemen are constantly on Vanucci’s trail, and he uses several disguises and tricks to throw them off. But after seeing a crowd mob an over-the-hill American movie actor in town named Tony Powell (Victor Mature parodying himself), it strikes Vanucci that movie stars and film crews are idolized and have free rein in society. Boom! This gives him a brilliant idea! He and his “crew” will become a famous Italian film director and his crew to throw off suspicion.

Posing as wacky director Federico Fabrizi, Vanucci plans to bring the gold ashore in broad daylight as part of a scene in his avant-garde film and to give the picture an air of legitimacy, he cons the super-vain Tony Powell to star in the film! Powell’s nervous agent, Harry (Martin Balsam) is suspicious of Fabrizi, but his client demands to do the film. It also helps that the entire tiny fishing village of Sevalio is dumb enough (and ego-crazed) to believe anything Vanucci says.

Filming goes along chaotically with bizarre scenes being shot while the ship finally arrives carrying the stolen gold. But there’s a double-cross and Vanucci drives off with all of the gold causing your slapstick car chase  to ensue, ending with Vanucci being arrested… again. However, when Fabrizi’s film is screened in court (as part of the evidence) Vanucci’s “film” is hailed by an Italian film critic to be a masterpiece, even though the townspeople see themselves as insufferable narcissistic buffoons! Vanucci goes back to jail but, in a very odd ending that callbacks the beginning, he escapes again… kinda.

This was Neil Simon’s first screenplay and also the movie that lured Victor Mature out of retirement. Sellers loved the script, but demanded his wife (Ekland) at that time be cast as his sister, even though she wasn’t right for the role and wasn’t that great an actress. Oh well, keep the star happy, right? The picture didn’t do so well at the box office here, but was a smash overseas. A lot of the problems were due to the Italian/English lost-in-translations script-to-screen adaptations and many re-dubbing session were called for when several Italian actors couldn’t speak English well… or not at all.

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