Mad Money
, , ,
104 min.
Release Date
Mad Money

Mad Money intends to exploit our fondness for Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah by placing them in a situation that should be liberating, except it’s so familiar. They’re such likable actresses, and maybe that’s the problem. We apologetically go to their movies, often solely because they’re the stars, leave with disappointment, yet go again next time their name dons the marquee. Someday we’ll learn movies like these aren’t satisfying on any level, other than hypothetical. In theory, the concept is sound. Two likable and energetic ladies pair with Katie Holmes to rob the Kansas City Federal Reserve from the inside. Otherwise classy actresses with impressive filmographies throw on uncharacteristic custodian jumpsuits and pull a key switcheroo, engage in some not-so-clever sleight of hand, and pile gobs of soon-to-be-destroyed cash into the garbage, which is later divvied up and lauded over.

It should be Inside Man meets The First Wives Club. But don’t expect Michael Mann by way of Norah Ephron; this thief comedy provides only the occasional chuckle, a mere ounce of tension, and nothing in the neighborhood of characters. It seems the filmmakers stopped worrying if the script worked when Keaton and Latifah signed on, assuming the former would howl and act wild as she tends to do, while the latter would be at her direct and delightful best. Why bother trying when names are half the sell? Keaton plays Bridget, an upper-middle-class stay-at-home wife whose husband Don (Ted Danson) hasn’t worked for a year. She’s forced to reenter the workforce, discovering that “homemaker for 20 years” doesn’t impress interviewers. Landing janitorial work at the Federal Reserve, she cleans toilets and wipes down camera monitors, all the while watching as worn cash is shredded to make way for new bills. When her control-freak boss (Stephen Root) isn’t standing over her shoulder, she notices a loophole in the security system. She rationalizes that it’s not actually stealing, since the loot was headed for the shredder anyway.

Recruiting shred-attendant Nina (Latifah) and cart mover Jackie (Holmes), Bridget sets her plan in motion. Many heist or theft films often require elaborate schemes detailed with a procedural methodology; immersing ourselves in caper details is half the fun. In the past, movies like Jules Dassin’s Rififi were banned because, as the crime was so realistically conceived, viewers could use the filmed heist like a schematic. The same cannot be said for Mad Money. While Diane Keaton has presence like few other actresses working today, she’s no empress of subtlety. Her shifty-eyed movements and abrasive nervousness while executing The Plan are laughable, but not in the welcomed, farcical comedy way. The trio’s hand signals, including a vigorous swipe of finger across eyebrow, beg for attention, and could only be more obvious if executed by Carrot Top. And when the bank manager prattles on about keeping an eye on everything-everywhere in his establishment, we question his gift of sight.

Any one of us could conceive tighter security than this alleged Federal Reserve exhibits. Bridget finds a duplicate lock for the to-be-destroyed cash container at a hardware store. No laser grids. No three-foot-thick steel doors. No elaborate escapes through sewers or by helicopter. Just a Master lock and bundles of cash stuffed into underwear. Every heist movie we’ve ever seen teaches us the mistakes this movie makes in plausible schemes. Hell, The Great Muppet Caper has more thievery wit.

I enjoy Diane Keaton, and could find pleasure in even her most mediocre comedy. I enjoy Queen Latifah, as she’s usually the best part of whatever bad movie she’s placed herself in. But Katie Holmes lost me with her ceaseless bad dancing, gum chewing, and airhead dialogue. She offers vacant expressions and flaky behavior, forcing us to speculate where the talent from The Gift, Pieces of April, and Wonder Boys disappeared to. We realize this frivolous heist romp sacrifices any attempt to engage us when its lightheartedness shows us that all-too-familiar scene where our leads throw heaps of cash in the air, screaming in elation for their illegally acquired booty (see above photo). Just once I would like to see what follows immediately after that scene: silent annoyance for the twenty minutes it takes to pick up the scattered bills.

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