Masterminds Parent Review

Families may find the film's overall message of turning a criminal act into a lighthearted farce to be the biggest reason to forgo this robbery dramatization.

Overall C-

David Ghantt’s (Zach Galifianakis) boring job as a security truck driver gets a glimmer of excitement when he is talked into stealing some of the money he's been transporting. But the more brilliant masterminds behind the crime (Kristen Wiig and Owen Wilson) may have dubious motives for including him in the heist.

Violence C+
Sexual Content C+
Profanity B-
Substance Use C+

Masterminds is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, some language and violence.

Movie Review

Wow. What movie isn’t based on a true story these days? Yes, I’m used to seeing that claim at the beginning of sports films, dramas and political thrillers, but a crime comedy? Surprisingly a brief check of the facts reveals many of the plot points in this crazy caper are indeed based on the 1997 $17 million heist that was one of the largest robberies in US history. Even the names of most of the major players haven’t been changed. But, of course, much of the shtick is pure fiction.

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David Ghantt (played by Zach Galifianakis) is a bit of a simpleton who drives an armored truck for Loomis-Fargo. Despite being engaged to Jandice (Kate McKinnon), a self-absorbed woman anxious to have full control over her man, he is immediately distracted by his new driving partner Kelly (Kirsten Wiig). A live-life-to-the-max girl, Kelly hardly gets her foot in the door of her new job when she somewhat jokingly suggests the two of them should plan a robbery. Not one to bend the rules, let alone burn the entire employee manual, David says no way.

A few weeks later Kelly tells off her boss (Matt Corboy) and, after tossing her gun on the floor and almost shooting him, the disgruntled employee is sent packing. Needing a place to land, she starts hanging out with her old friends, Steve and Michelle (Owen Wilson and Mary Elizabeth Ellis). The have-not couple are looking to move up the economic ladder as quickly and easily as possible. So they begin questioning Kelly about the ins and outs of the armored car business. Their conversation ends with Kelly conniving to use David’s obvious attraction for her as a way to manipulate him into helping them empty the money out of the local Loomis Fargo’s warehouse.

Sure enough, David takes the blonde’s come-hither bait and, against his better judgement, finds himself part of the gang. His job is to do the dirty work of loading a ton of cash into the back of a van. Once the deed is complete, David is sent to Mexico with $25,000 packed in his underwear, and a promise of more funds to come. Kelly also commits to later joining him in his new life. However, Steve, the ringleader, has other plans. These include spending a wad of the loot on a mansion, toys and clothes. Oh, and a hitman to make sure David, whom Steve assumes is the FBI’s only suspect, never has a chance to reveal the rest of the story.

The best parts of this yarn are, not surprisingly, the ones that are true. The gaudy lifestyle Steve and Michelle immerse themselves in is accurately portrayed—right down to the black velvet Elvis painting. Galifianakis’s slapstick moments and the chemistry between cast members provide some funny moments as well. Not as humorous is the depiction of the killer for hire (Jason Sudeikis), whose sadistic style is the invention of the scriptwriters. With the details of the actual story being so incredulous, it’s unfortunate this production wastes so much screen time on made-up details, along with sexual and scatological humor.

Even with the tawdry content and the tortuous intentions of the assassin, parents may find the overall message of turning a criminal act into a lighthearted farce to be the biggest deal breaker of all. In a closing scene, Galifianakis’s David Ghantt expresses his appreciation for the character development he has gained because he took a risk with his life. Considering that in reality he has done jail time and still owes a large monetary debt to the government, this movie makes a blundered robbery look like an attractive adventure.


Directed by Jared Hess. Starring Kristen Wiig, Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis. Running time: 94 minutes. Theatrical release September 30, 2016. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Masterminds here.

Masterminds Parents Guide

Steve and Michelle Chambers really did have a difficult time fitting into the high end gated community where they bought their huge house with stolen funds. Details of life in the neighborhood leading up to the FBI raid are chronicled in the local Gaston Gazette newspaper.