The big-screen story of the $17 million North Carolina Loomis-Fargo vault robbery that made headlines in 1997 has sat on the shelf for more than a year, a casualty of the financial troubles of its distributor, Relativity Media. Now that Masterminds has finally seen the light of day, it’s clear we would have been perfectly fine if the movie sat on the shelf for a few more years, if not permanently.

Starring Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, and Owen Wilson as the most bumbling crooks in modern history, Masterminds had the potential to be a kooky laugh-riot, highlighting the utmost in criminal ineptitude. Instead the film is largely forgettable, often boring, and doesn’t come close to living up to its comedic potential.

Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess seems like a perfect fit for the idiocy of the material; these are criminals, after all, who dreamed of spending their millions on a bunch of CDs, who payed cash for a $600,000 house right after the robbery, and who forgot about a surveillance camera in the vault that recorded the entire heist. But while Hess’ Napoleon Dynamite was memorably fun and quirky, Masterminds lands with a thud, leaving you to wonder how such a hilarious story could be so entirely squandered.

Galifianakis is David Ghantt, a doofus who worked at Loomis and who agreed to the heist solely because of his (unrequited) infatuation with his former co-worker Kelly Campbell (Wiig). She’s working with ringleader Steve Chambers (Wilson), who decides Ghantt should steal the money solo and then head straight to Mexico until the heat is off. After a few weeks of living large, Chambers then decides to hire hitman Michael McKinney (Jason Sudeikis) to remove Ghantt from the equation.

On paper (and in real life) the Loomis heist was an absolute comedy of errors; news accounts of the case will actually leave you doubled-over, so it’s almost incomprehensible how a cast with that level of comedic talent could make the whole thing such a yawn. But damned if they don’t do just that. Wiig hasn’t been this flat ever, making you wonder if this is indeed the same person who could never keep a straight face in all those “The Californians” skits on Saturday Night Live (not to mention Bridesmaids). And Galifianakis has less appeal here than his famous pair of plastic ferns. Sudeikis and Wilson do have some bright moments, injecting a little life into Masterminds whenever they’re on screen, though everyone pales considerably to Kate McKinnon, who steals the show as Ghantt’s whack-a-doodle white-trash fiancée.

It’s hard to imagine how the screenwriting trio of Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, and Emily Spivey could take such a ridiculous, real-life story and make it so stale and uninteresting. It’s mind-boggling, actually. And that, frankly, is the real crime of Masterminds.


2/5 stars