Mad Money (2007)
A simple enough song in the musical, ‘Cabaret’ states a truism; ‘Money makes the world go ‘round’. Unless you take the simplicity of Walden’s Pond to an extreme we all need money and more time than not the amount of money received as income is barely able to keep pace with the demands of your expenses. Typically the themes explored in movies relates to the current concerns of the audience. Since we are in an ‘economical downturn’ movies about people trying to beat the system to get a little leg up financially are bond to become more prevalent in the local cinema and DVD outlets. One of the latest installments in this trend is the 2008 comedy ‘Mad Money’. It takes a situation familiar to all too many Americans, downsizing, and how one group of three women try to implement a personal solution; theft. Since this flick is ostensibly a comedy it has to give some plausible moral out for the ladies in their larcenous endeavors. In a light hearted movie the audience can be forgiving of holes in the plot big enough to drive a truck through but the bottom line is the movie has to have some foundation in reality in order for the story and characters to connect with the viewers. There is also one other factor that is vital to the success of a comedy, it really should be funny. This flick has some moments with slapstick humor that works and the actors playing the characters are proficient and likeable but overall the film serves up chuckles not guffaws. This would make a reasonably good choice for a date night but doesn’t have what is required for a solid comedy.
The first thing about this film that bodes ill is the number of people listed as writers. There are four sets of names but only one wrote the shooting script. Credit is given to Terry Winsor and Neil McKay for their 2001 BBC television movie ‘Hot Money’ which has an identical plot and characters with very similar names. An earlier screen play is credited to John Mister who also worked on the British version. The man writing the script used here is Glenn Gers. His previous works include ‘Fracture’ which was a more serious crime drama and ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ a taut made for television thriller that pops up in cable every so often. He can write about crime well enough and knows how to create suspense by comedy is a different animal altogether. Gers has some good ideas that just were not executed well here. This might have faired better as a straight crime flick instead of a comedy. As far as a freshman effort in this difficult genre he is on the right track but let the story get out from under him. I’ve seen is other works and he is an excellent writer he just requires some honing of hiss comic skills.
This film does have to fall into the category of the ‘chick flick’. This is not intended as a pejorative at all. As an adult male I freely admit there are a good number of movies in this specific sub genre that I enjoy. This movie was directed by man who understands this kind of film, Callie Khouri. He wrote and directed one of the most feared film for much of the male population, ‘Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood’. In this time out Khouri paces the film well and keeps the story moving along. He does use the plot device to start the film at the end of the story with the ladies in custody. The majority of the film is a flashback to the actual events leading up to that moment. The main thing that is slacking here is any sense of urgency or suspense. True, this is a comedy but the nature of the plot requires some sense of danger or threat to make the laughs work. Comedy is often in the details and there are precious few contained in this movie. Khouri paints the story with too broad a brush to be effective. To his credit he does get the best possible performances out of his trio of actresses. The cast buoys this film up as much as possible.
Bridget Cardigan (Diane Keaton) is a typical affluent housewife. She enjoys the money she can spend on herself, her husband Don (Ted Danson) and their house. Life is good; at least until it took a drastic turn. Don is downsized, just a nice word for being unemployed. Like many older couples with a nice income they never prepared for the worse so when it happens they feel the effects immediately. The house is being reposed and the amount of debt they have is staggering. Don cannot get a job that would pay the same so the time comes that Bridget has to do the unthinkable, go to work. She has no marketable skills so she winds up with a janitorial job at the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. With her great need for money it was heartbreaking to watch as tattered old bills of all denominations being shredded. She needs money and here is a fortune destroyed on a daily basis. The idea hits as they only can in a flick like this. The money is officially off the books so who would know if she gave the currency a little reprieve before they meet their fate in the shredder. She can justify herself with the fact that this will help the economy, especially her own. The one catch is a janitor does not have the required access to the money to pull this off alone; she needs partners in crime, her scheme calls for two accomplices. Nina Brewster (Queen Latifah) works in the shredder room feeding in the bills. Jackie Truman (Katie Holmes) is responsible for transporting the carts of money from the Secret Service checkpoint to the shedding room. The plan is simple. Bridget will change the official lock with one she purchased. She then communicates the cart number to Nina and Jackie. Jackie takes some of the money from the targeted cart and dumps the bills into a trash can. Nina then switches their lock for the official lock and processes the remaining bills as usual. They then meet up in the ladies room to split the take and smuggle the ill gotten booty out of the building in their underwear. While the initial take was not as much as they had hoped the fact that they got away with it makes they try for more. As always greed comes into play and they start collecting a whole lot of cash. Of course, since the first scene in the flick was them in custody we already know that they will make a mistake and get caught.
This film depends on its cast for any degree of success it may garner. Diane Keaton still has it as a comic actress. She has perfected her timing, attitude and mannerisms too the point that just about anything she does will work out at least to some degree. She has earned her place as the Grande Dame of comic cinema. Queen Latifah is rapidly coming to the same level as Keaton. She may have started as a hip hop artist and still has a great voice not heard here. The Queen has the comic chops to pull off almost any role. She has been developing her craft as an actress in the best possible way. Starting off with a TV sit-com and moving in to roles that are superb such as ‘Chicago’ and ridiculous as in ‘Taxi’. The thing is she takes chances to grow as an actress. In some ways the inclusion of Katie Holmes is a touch of stunt casting. Many will want to see this film only because it is her first since giving birth. The fact is Holmes does well playing the scatter brain Jackie. These are three funny ladies in a vehicle not up to their collective efforts.
The DVD is released by Anchor Bay and as usual it is mastered extremely well. The video is presented in both anamorphic widescreen and pan & scan. Both are bright and well balanced. The Dolby 5.1 audio gives an excellent sound stage. There is a commentary track by the director and a making of featurette. This is a light hearted romp that could have been better.
Anchor Bay has followed up with the DVD by releasing a Blu-ray of the film. It is a straightforward transfer to the high definition format that does provide a little extra for the video and audio. The audio has been upgraded to True HD. If you have moved up to Blu-ray this is the only way to watch this movie.
Posted 04/14/08 (DVD)
Posted 10/20/08 (Blu-ray)