Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Review: Mad Money
1.5 stars (out of 5)
by R. Kurt Osenlund

One of the key selling points for Overture Films’ Mad Money (as seen in the movie’s TV spots) is that it’s “from the creator of Thelma & Louise.” That’s because the director is Callie Khouri, the woman who penned the Oscar-winning script for the 1991 Ridley Scott classic. Yet unlike its predecessor, don’t expect this forgettable heist comedy to deliver any timeless scenes or inspire any girl-power anthems.

It’s about three female janitors who band together to knock off the Federal Reserve Bank where they work, and in one of the most bizarre casting choices I’ve seen, it stars Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes as the down-on-their-luck trio. The plan is hatched by Keaton’s Bridget, whose comfortable, upper middle-class lifestyle is threatened when her husband Don (Ted Danson) gets laid off and her age and inexperience forbid her from acquiring a high-paying career. She recruits Latifah’s Nina (a single mother raising two boys) and Holmes’ Jackie (a free, dim-witted spirit with nothing to lose) to aid her in stealing large sums of worn-out bills that are bound for the shredder. The clever but preposterous scheme works for a while, until inevitable bumps in the road force the gals to assess their lives, values, and whether or not money truly can buy happiness. At the risk of spoiling the movie, that’s… about it.

Nothing really remarkable takes place in Mad Money, an obligatory, throwaway January release. You know, a film that comes out just when all of the awards contenders from the previous year have (nearly) completed their theatrical runs, and ends up falling through the cracks. What’s more, the content here doesn’t help matters. It’s not particularly fun to watch these women get filthy rich, because none of them are particularly likable enough to be wished well. Bridget is little more than a spoiled housewife afraid of losing her Bloomingdale’s account and Jackie is just a young bonehead with pockets to line. A case could be made for Nina, but the good-intended mother behaving badly is a bit of a stock character; one that needs more than this mediocre script’s weak development to give it a boost.

What originally piqued my interest was the aforementioned, nutso decision to put these three drastically different actresses together in one place. Both Keaton and Latifah are highly gifted comedic actresses of polar opposite styles. One’s got the awkwardly hilarious, over-the-hill schtick going for her, while the other has funny urban tenacity down to a science. Then there’s Holmes, whose inclusion in the project, I’d imagine, was not much different than her character’s inclusion in the heist. Once the two leads were in place, a third was needed, and they called on Holmes for space-filler. If for nothing else, seeing these three eclectic personalities thrown together seemed worth the trip. Sadly enough, even that aspect proves disappointing, as nearly all of the worthwhile moments of such can be seen in the movie’s trailer.

Seventeen years ago, Ms. Khouri won an Academy Award for creating two exciting female criminals you could gladly root for. Her latest effort is not awful, but certainly not good, and ultimately, just not worth it. The carefree charisma of Thelma & Louise feels about as far off as the Grand Canyon.

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