January 15, 2008 / 5:45 AM / 10 years ago

"Mad Money" a bankrupt comedy

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Heist movies don’t get more low-tech than “Mad Money.”

In this improbable and generally unfunny comedy, three female employees rob the Federal Reserve Bank over and over again as if it were a giant ATM: They just substitute their lock for the bank’s lock on cages of paper money heading for the shredder, stuff those ragged bills in bras and panties and walk right out. Really? OK, that probably wouldn’t work, but who cares if the women are engaging and the payoff fun? Unfortunately, this is one heist picture where you root for the robbers to get caught. They are too dim-witted, unsympathetic and greedy to get away with anything.

The startling combination of Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes might be the answer to a trivia question a few years hence when no one will remember that these three could have starred in a movie together. The combination of top-drawer talent will attract women, primarily older than 25, to “Money‘s” opening weekend, but box office looks weak afterward. It certainly is an inauspicious first release for Overture Films, the movie production and distribution subsidiary of Liberty Media television giant Starz.

Keaton plays an upper-middle-class woman in Kansas City (the film actually was shot in Louisiana) whose country-club way of life is threatened when her husband (Ted Danson) gets downsized. Lacking job skills, she winds up as a cleaning lady at the Federal Reserve. Her very first thought is to rob the place.

Somehow she talks two co-workers whom she would otherwise ignore -- Latifah, a single mom who stuffs the shredding machine, and Holmes, a fellow cleaner and airhead who dances to the beat of her iPod all day -- into helping her waltz the discarded bills out of the building. One heist leads to another, greed kicks in and soon they have to draft into their gang a security guard (Roger Cross) who gets wise to their capers but has the hots for Latifah.

There’s never much jeopardy or suspense involved in these repeated robberies, nor does writer Glenn Gers (“Fracture”) get much mileage out of the comic predicament of three families with bundles of money they can’t put into a bank or any other place that will establish a record of unearned largess. The actors mostly flounder under Callie Khouri’s direction. Their characters fail to engage, and in Keaton’s case line readings and other business come off as downright abrasive.

You do wonder why Khouri, an Oscar-winner for writing “Thelma and Louise,” didn’t take a crack at elevating the script, which is based on a British telefilm “Hot Money.” Stranger still is that no one thought to look at Latifah’s 1996 film, “Set It Off,” an action movie about female bank robbers, where the filmmakers keenly observe the lives of their thieves to explain the desperation behind their brazen behavior.

Cast:

Bridget: Diane Keaton

Nina: Queen Latifah

Jackie: Katie Holmes

Don: Ted Danson

Glover: Stephen Root

Bryce: Christopher McDonald

Bob: Adam Rothenberg

Barry: Roger Cross

Director: Callie Khouri; Screenwriter: Glenn Gers; Based on the screenplay “Hot Money” by: Neil McKay, Terry Winsor; Producers: Jay Cohen, Frank DeMartini, James Acheson; Executive producers: Avi Lerner, Boaz Davidson, Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, Michael Flannigan, Robert Green, Wendy Kram; Director of photography: John Bailey; Production designer: Brent Thomas; Music: Marty Davich, James Newton Howard; Costume designer: Susie DeSanto; Editor: Wendy Greene Bricmont.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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