DVD Review: Mad Money
Release Date: May 13, 2008
Distributor: Anchor Bay
· Callie Khouri
· Diane Keaton
· Queen Latifah
· Katie Holmes
by Sean Conover
Published: May 22, 2008
Heist films cover nearly every genre, but the plots are almost always the same: people try to steal money, something happens to arouse suspicions, and the robbers try and get away. The only difference from story to story is the cast of characters and whether it's funny or not. "Mad Money" is no different - it's a heist film where three women steal money from their jobs at the Federal Reserve, something happens that arouses suspicions, and then they are either caught or get away - but it's hard to tell whether it's funny or not. Instead, it ends up being a middle-of-the-road heist film that doesn't get too funny or exciting and tries to hitch a ride on the performances of its lead actresses.
It's tough to put that much pressure on the three leads. Even though Diane Keaton has an impressive resume and is the most seasoned actress here, and it's hard to ever fault her, she can't carry the crux of the plot. Her two co-conspirators, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes do a fair job as well, but even they can't lift the spirit of the film much past mediocre. The three get along fairly well onscreen, and the supporting cast helps out here and there, but the story itself gets buried under the weight of the predictable plot.
The story does root itself into today's time frame, at least: when stay-at-home wife Bridget (Keaton) finds out that her husband Don (Ted Danson) has been laid-off from his upper-middle class job, she decides to rejoin the workforce to make ends meet by getting a job at the Kansas City Federal Reserve - as a janitor. Cleaning bathrooms and emptying trash all day, Bridget cunningly notices that the impenetrable money fortress doesn't check the trash bags, so she conspires with Nina (Latifah) and Jackie (Holmes) to start stealing money that has been marked for destruction. While the crime itself is intriguing, once the ladies get away with it and continue stealing, eventually they are going to arouse suspicion and get caught. The only question left is if they get away with it or not.
While many films ask viewers to suspend belief from time to time, to advance the story or help some thing else make more sense, "Mad Money" pretty much asks viewers to just play along the whole time. Is it impossible for Bridget's husband to find another job - so much so that she has to work as a janitor? Are these three women that wise to come up with the perfect - albeit simple - plan? Does the "cover story" of where the influx of money is coming from really supposed to fool anyone? Can anyone look at Katie Holmes any more and not wonder if she's been brainwashed by Tom Cruise?
The last question aside, the film is loosely based on a British film that is loosely based on a book (or so we're told on the scant "Behind the Scenes" bonus feature, the only extra on the disc aside from the director's commentary), so apparently the heist did occur in somewhat the same fashion. One can imagine the heist was about as funny as this film as well. Why this is being marketed as a "hilarious comedy" is anyone's guess, since there are few to none when it comes to funny lines (although it does try). Latifah has good comedic timing, and Keaton has a few attempts, but most of the humor gets short changed.
In financial-centric times such as these that we are currently experiencing in the United States, it is quite the fantasy to come up with a get rich quick scheme, especially when there isn't a "victim" (the money is tagged to be destroyed anyway, so no one really misses it). The idea is intriguing, and the payoff would be wonderful, but unfortunately "Mad Money" ends up as just another missed opportunity with sub-prime laughs. If you have some time - and a little extra cash - it's not a bad investment, especially if you like the lead actresses. In the end, your wallet will just end up being a little lighter, and you'll feel as though you were robbed a bit of your time.