Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson
Directed by: Jared Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite”)
Written by: Chris Bowman (“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life”) Hubbel Palmer (“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life”) and Emily Spivey (debut)
Whether or not you’ve even seen 2004’s “Napoleon Dynamite,” chances are its self-consciously weird aesthetic has touched your life in one way or another even to this day. Some dipshit you know still exclaims “GOSH!” or wears a “Vote For Pedro” ringer tee. You’ve likely flipped past dozens of copies of the DVD at used bookstores, going for a lowly buck because everyone seemingly owned that DVD at the height of the medium’s powers. That movie (briefly) put its director, Jared Hess, on the map in the mid-2000s. But a stab at the mainstream with “Nacho Libre” and an attempt to recapture the quirk with the awful “Gentlemen Broncos” has left Hess in the clearance bin with “Napoleon Dynamite” with people wondering why anyone liked it in the first place.
Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that Hess’ latest, “Masterminds,” feels like it came from 2005, when the prospect of the director of a weird cult favorite and a cast featuring Owen Wilson was enough to open a movie.
“Masterminds” is said to be based on a true story, wherein a dim-bulb South Carolinian named David Ghant (Zach Galifianakis) works for an armored car company. Even though he’s engaged to be married to Jandice (Kate McKinnon), David is sweet on coworker Kelly (Kristen Wiig) and sort-of expresses his feelings toward her when she is fired. After taking up with dirtbag criminal Steve (Owen Wilson), Kelly sees David as the perfect patsy to set up a robbery. Soon, he’s convinced to steal $17 million from the armored car company and flee to Mexico, waiting for Kelly and the rest of the money to arrive when the heat dies down. But since David forgot to take all of the security tapes with him, a hitman hired by Steve (Jason Sudekis) and an FBI agent (Leslie Jones—yes, this movie reunites three of the new Ghostbusters) are on his tail.
Sporting a He-Man bob cut and an effeminate sweet tea accent, Galifianakis feels like he’s trying too hard from the get-go. Gifted at playing a weirdo, the added affectations only distract from the okay-enough humor on display. Some nice moments of absurdity creep in here and there, from Sudekis’ ruthless-turned-affable hitman and an all-too-brief appearance from Ken Marino, on hand for one cheapo (yet effective) visual gag. While never looking to plumb the depths of wood-paneled quirkiness dredged up by “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Masterminds” still wears the influence of that passing fad too proudly on its sleeve.