A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig star in Masterminds, a comedy based on the true story of one of America's largest bank thefts. The movie has relatively mild levels of sex, drinking, and language, but the violence played for laughs could concern parents. A hit man threatens several people; in funny but still scary scenes, he chases after a character, then imprisons him in a bathroom and says he'll slit his throat. In other scenes, a severed human ear drops from a handkerchief the hit man holds, and he shows off a bag of bloody human teeth. Guns are pulled and fired. No one gets shot, but in one scene a man is afraid he's shot himself in the behind (a woman examines him and references his "crack"). Characters fight, and a woman defeats a rival by pouring vaginal itch cream in her mouth. Language includes "ass," hell," "t-ts," "booty call," and more. One character is the butt of jokes based on her size, and a woman uses her sexual wiles to get a man to commit a crime. Characters who steal money get prison sentences, but one manages to hide some of his loot and isn't punished for it. Adults drink beer and cocktails; one character refers to being "buzzed, not drunk."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Based on a real armored-truck robbery that took place in North Carolina in 1997, MASTERMINDS stars Zach Galifianakis as David Scott Ghantt, a bored employee of the company responsible for picking up and delivering cash to and from banks. His workday is livened up considerably when Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig) joins him on the job. Soon David is dreaming of replacing his vacant-eyed fiancee, Jandice (Kate McKinnon), with Kelly. But Kelly and her petty-thief pal, Steve (Owen Wilson), see opportunity in David's starry eyes. They soon convince the hapless sucker to help them steal millions. David's plan is to go on the lam to Mexico with Kelly. But when hit man Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis) turns up in Mexico looking for David at the same time that FBI Special Agent Scanlon (Leslie Jones) is hot on his trail, things start going south, fast.
Is it any good?
A brilliantly funny cast sinks its teeth into fresh dialogue and hysterical visual gags in this heist film, which doesn't take viewers anywhere they haven't been before but is still a lot of fun. Galifianakis has a ball as the awkward, longing, goofy-haired Ghantt, who's caught up in a crime he never would have committed if he didn't want to make out with his cute coworker so much. The film's funniest moments are montages of David gamely trying to go along with what other characters want. He takes a series of bizarre engagement photos with Jandice, then tries to bond with McKinney via beach walks and water sports. It's a relief that David's lovable (if imperfect) character doesn't end up dead, which would darken the proceedings considerably, and that (almost) everyone eventually winds up getting his or her just desserts.
In fact, Masterminds is almost perfect -- except for a few uncomfortably sexist moments and jokes, like when Jones' Agent Scanlon is mocked for her robust physique. In one scene, she's told she looks like she plays for the WNBA, and in another, she's mistaken for a man. The audience is clearly expected to laugh at these jokes, but not everyone will. Plus, Kelly is a "temptress" type we've all seen before -- a "bad" woman who convinces a "good" man to do her evil bidding. Wiig is charming enough to make Kelly likable even though she gets a lot less to do than the guys. But the camera's insistence on ogling her body -- and the implication that she redeems herself by falling in love with David in the end despite not finding him physically attractive -- may make some viewers uncomfortable. The movie is still a barrel of laughs, but it'd be a comedy classic if it was more sympathetic to its female characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters in Masterminds. Are they role models? Are they intended to be? Can you think of other law-breaking characters who are presented sympathetically?
How does the movie treat its female characters? Are their roles as important as the male characters? Is Kristen Wiig's character a cliche? Why or why not?
Do the movie's scary/violent scenes have less impact because they're played for laughs? Are some types of media violence more acceptable than others?
What is a heist film? What tends to happens in one of these movies? How do they usually end? Name some other examples of comic heist films. How is Masterminds similar to or different from them?
- In theaters: September 30, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: January 31, 2017
- Cast: Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis
- Director: Jared Hess
- Studio: Relativity Media
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude and sexual humor, some language and violence
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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