Movie News & Reviews

Don't spend good money on "Mad Money"

I don't mean to brag, but I've got a pretty good attention span.

Like, I read books. Sometimes more than one a year. My powers ofconcentration are so intense I once got to page 72 of Crime andPunishment, and nine years later when I decided to have another goat it, I made it all the way to page 17 before I took it to the backyard, got out my Hitting Stick, and clubbed it into pulp.

I'm even better with movies, and not just because I haven't yetfigured out a way to make a stick long enough to reach a theaterscreen (though my recent research into nail technology lookspromising -- fingers crossed). Moving pictures that tell a story arealmost hypnotically compelling, and even when they're wholly andhistorically bad, they usually have a couple funny parts, or a vampireor something, or the ending's so wildly incomprehensible you getmomentarily shocked into enlightenment, Zen-style.

It's the boring movies that get my goat. Once you're out of school,being bored is hard! All you have to do is think about boxing akangaroo or someone eating a banana and wham, hilarious. A movie likeMad Money, then, with no limits other than its millionairebudget and the human imagination itself -- if that can't deliver thecinematic equivalent of a dude eating a banana, that's the mark oftrue failure.

When Ted Danson loses his white-collar job, he and wife Diane Keatoninstantly find themselves nearly 300K in debt. They have a niceenough house, but as they're obviously close to retirement age anddon't appear to have an ounce-a-day coke habit (unless Danson'ssecretly using it to bleach his hair), a yacht the size of theUSS Intrepid, or a black hole localized in their basement thatsucks down any cash that enters the house, it's a bit of a stretch tobelieve. But then, with Mad Money, you don't need to suspendbelief so much as expel it, chain it up Hannibal Lector-style, thenexecute it and dump it in an unmarked grave.

To help steer them out of their dire financial straights, Keaton goesjob-hunting and quickly finds she's qualified for nothing more thanjanitorial duty -- at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, where everyday a million dollars in soiled, used-up bills are destroyed.

Nobody's ever successfully stolen from the Reserve, but honest labor'schump stuff, so Keaton cooks up a scheme to rip the place off.Enlisting the help of two coworkers -- the scatterbrained Katie Holmesand initially resistant Queen Latifah -- they find a way to beat thesecurity and steal enough to put them all on Easy Street. Soon,however, green-eyed greed rears its head. Why steal some money whenyou can steal a whole lot more money? The real crime would be notrobbing the government of millions of dollars, wouldn't it? Surelytheir hubris will never catch up with them?

Meant to be a lighthearted heist movie, a bunch of clever shenaniganspulled off by a bunch of witty, off-kilter characters, MadMoney is none of the above. I can count to two, so I know howmany times I laughed during it.

As for the robbery, it's a little hard to thrilled by its conceptionor its execution when everything Keaton would need to do to pull itoff is explained to her by preening boss Stephen Root within minutesof her getting the job. What few details aren't covered there arefilled in by a bizarre yet dull series of cuts where the criminals waxphilosophical to someone off-camera about why they did what they did.The movie rarely works up any more momentum than a one-wingedhousefly, but if it ever threatens to become remotely interesting, youcan be sure that'll be stopped short by a sudden jump to some doofusin a cell blathering on about how crime is contagious.

That is, whenever it can spare time from its busy schedule ofstealing-montages, side-wipes, and bickering about whether they shouldtake more money. It's not like there are any stakes here, either; ohsure, they might talk about going to prison, but with the exception ofLatifah, all these characters are at best so psychotic they'd be sentto the crazy house and at worst such paper-thin sketches of realpeople they'd be able to slip right through the bars of any jail.

So you've got a bunch of mopes not funny enough to cheer for and notreal enough to worry for (let alone believe the ludicrous andintrusive attempts to explain their motivations), a plot based on theassumption it's more fun to watch people sitting around arguing abouta robbery than the robbery itself, and a script that's not just clumsyand uninspired, but so flabby you could cut 15-20 minutes withoutnoticing they were gone. Put all that together and Mad Moneycould win a dragging contest with a tow truck. It's not a trainwreckor a war crime on celluloid, it's something worse: boring from frontto back.

Grade: D