Mad Money opens with an image bound to get your attention: A upper crust suburban couple -- Don and Bridget Cardigan (Ted Danson and Diane Keaton) -- are stuffing dollar bills into a paper shredder, then flushing the scraps down the toilet. Cut to Nina Brewster (Queen Latifah), a single mother who is burning her 10s and 20s as fast as an outdoor fire can consume them. Next there's Jackie Truman and her husband Bob (Katie Holmes and Adam Rothenberg) anxiously leaving their trailer home as if it were about to blow up...
To discover how these people got in such a strange predicament we fade back three years and meet the employees of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank that are about to become co-conspirators in a get-rich-easy scheme.
Bridget is accustomed to a cushy lifestyle, until the day Don comes home without a job. When the middle-aged man resigns himself to a stack of rejection letters and buries his head in the sofa, Bridget is left with no other options. Heading to the unemployment office she finds the only work her degree in comparative literature qualifies her for -- custodial duties at the government institution.
But cleaning toilets is only the beginning of her on-the-job training. Observing Nina shredding millions of dollars in currency, the wheels start to turn in Bridget's brain. Befriending the single mother and convincing her that there must be some way to take some of her paperwork home, the pair hatches an elaborate plan. They only need one more participant -- blithe Jackie who pushes carts full of worn out cash up and down the halls of the building.
Although few crimes can elicit as much sympathy as stealing money from a faceless source (such as the government) -- especially when the benefactors will be three overworked and underpaid women -- the movie falls short of generating that emotion. Perhaps that is because of the focus on Keaton's character. Considering the home where Bridget lives could easily be traded for a nice condo and a better education, it's difficult to feel for her plight. And it's even harder as you watch the woman add more feathers to her already plush nest by talking single mom Nina into putting her job on the line.
Along with the glamorization of illegal behavior, parents will find moderate amounts of mild profanities and infrequent scatological expletives. A security guard who utters constant verbal innuendo and uses his metal detecting wand on women in a way that should have him out the door faster than a bank robber contributes to the movie's sexual content, as do discussions convincing a single woman to have sex with a man in order to get his help. We also see images of women stuffing money in their underwear, a close-up of a hand putting a bill into a sting bikini bottom, and a male mooning.
The film's script liberally foreshadows the outcome of their decisions. Aside from the included snippet of the end before the beginning, we see characters being interviewed by police throughout the movie. Their confessions act as the storyteller that narrates us through the heist. While there are enough unanswered questions to maintain our curiosity, by the time everything is added up, this lackluster comedy is poor on entertainment value -- not to mention being ethically bankrupt.