Anchor Bay // 2008 // 104 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // November 5th, 2008
They're having the crime of their lives.
"The yen is just going to have to take care of itself."
Diane Keaton (Annie Hall) plays a middle-upper class woman who has suddenly been placed in a less than comfortable financial state. Her husband (Ted Danson, Damages) has just been fired from his rather cushy job, and now they're going to have to sell their very nice house. After much hemming and hawing, Keaton comes up with the brilliant solution of actually getting a job to help pay the bills. Because Keaton proves to be completely incompetent when it comes to job interviews, she is forced to take a lowly position cleaning bathrooms. Oddly, she just so happens to be cleaning bathrooms at the Federal Reserve.
It's there that she meets Queen Latifah (Chicago), a woman who...well, is Queen Latifah, more or less. She's also a single mom, just doing her job and trying to take care of her kids. They become friends, and they both quickly befriend the kooky Katie Holmes (Dawson's Creek), who acts as if she has spent far too much time in Tom Cruise's Scientology meditation room (her character even has the suspicious ability to read minds). These three determine that they are fed up with being ordinary hard-working Americans, and they decide to rob the Federal Reserve. How? Instead of shredding the worn-out old bills, they stuff them in their shirts and carry them out. Somehow, they manage not to get caught.
Mad Money is a silly and ridiculous movie about a bunch of silly and ridiculous women pulling off a silly and ridiculous heist. I suppose the title is more or less appropriate. It comes from the question Katie Holmes' character poses at the end of the film: "Is 'mad money' money you spend when you go mad, or money you spend when you are mad?" Those who see the film are quite likely to either go mad or be made mad by this movie, which takes a lot of time to do very little, and what there actually is doesn't make much sense.
The film is a flat crime comedy that never really seems to interest the viewer on any level. My wife and I watched the movie silently, waiting patiently for the funny moments to show up. Sadly, genuine moments of humor are few and far between. Diane Keaton used to be a truly wonderful actress, but what has happened to her these days? She has turned into an unfortunate parody of herself, offering personality tics that were once oddly charming and making them insufferably over-the-top. Keaton's comedy routine has officially gotten very old, and Katie Holmes can only be described as "terrible" in her attempt at playing the sort of offbeat character that Keaton used to ace back in the 1970s. Queen Latifah is fine, but she doesn't get to attempt to do anything funny. Perhaps that is for the best, considering the material here. As Keaton's bewildered husband, Ted Danson offers some of the most mind-bogglingly bad lines you will hear in a studio film these days.
If you're looking for a credible heist movie, you can just stop right here. This is not about clever schemes and nifty plotting. It's about a bunch of women stuffing bills into their bra, walking out a building, hugging, screaming, and throwing money around while having pillow fights. For a few of you, this will be satisfactory. You know who you are. I feel there is a time and place for everything, as the saying goes, but I can't really think of a less interesting way to spend my time than watching this movie. Mad Money is a failure on every level. Even beyond the weak comedy and the poor plotting, the actors don't even seem to be enjoying themselves very much. When we can't even take comfort in the fact that they are having fun (despite the fact that we aren't), well, there simply isn't much to hang around for.
The hi-def transfer is just fine, with sharp facial detail and satisfactory depth. Nonetheless, this is not the sort of film that begs to be made available in Blu-ray. It's rather uninteresting visually, and there is not a single "wow" moment over the course of the entire film. The audio is fine. This is a chipper and slightly grating track with a sappy score by James Newton Howard and Marty Davich. Even so, it's clean and sharp. Supplements are very disappointing. There is an obnoxious nine-minute "making of" piece that features some positively inane statements from the cast. Consider this gem from Katie Holmes: "The great thing that I love about the movie is, it's really, um, a game. And who doesn't love to play games?" A commentary with director Callie Khouri has lots of dry spots, and is rather dull when Khouri actually does talk. Mostly, she chats about how nice it was to work with all these talented people. Finally, there are a few deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer.
The only person who manages to defeat the wretched screenplay is the wonderful Steven Root (Office Space), who plays the manager of the Federal Reserve. In his strangely compelling creation of this character, we find a great deal of subtle humor and originality. Sadly, the movie seems to generally regard him as an unimportant bonus feature, not a main attraction.
In a struggling economy, investing in Mad Money is a dangerous move. Take the 104 minutes you were thinking about using to watch this movie and spend that time doing something else -- anything else. Just spare yourself the headache of sitting through this one. This film is quite possibly the worst thing that all three lead actresses have ever been involved in.
Guilty. Lock these gals up.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes