A Caper with Substance
Tackling the genres of both comedy and a heist film can be difficult to pull off, but when the cast includes Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes, how can it fail? Mad Money isn't intense, action-oriented nor will it win any Oscars. Still, in times when the economy and politics weight heavy on our minds, it's a great hour-and-a-half escape.
Bridget Cardigan (Keaton) and her husband Dan (Ted Danson) have fallen on hard times as he's lost his job. Before their beautiful home becomes a foreclosure statistic, Bridget gets a job. Since her advanced degree in comparative literature results in no leads, she goes to work at the Federal Reserve Bank. She works as a custodian only a few days before she gets the idea to steal the old money that's ready to be shredded.
When Bridget explains this idea to co-worker Nina Brewster (Latifah), the one who shreds the old money, Nina doesn't jump on board the scheme. She's a struggling, single mom and can use the dough, but she won't risk a jail term.
Bridget keeps thinking, and when she comes up with a perfect plan and brings in one more worker, Jackie Truman (Holmes), all the ladies are on board. They soon form a sisterhood, meeting at a local pub and sharing intimate details about their lives. In Nina's case; Jackie and Bridget try to nudge her into a relationship with a cute security guard at the bank, Barry (Roger R. Cross).
As they begin to sneak more and more money out, they remind each other "not" to spend it. But hey! They're women. When things almost get out of control, Dan reels them all back in with an idea. However, Jackie's trailer-park husband Bob (Adam Rothenberg) doesn't get it and upsets the apple-cart. In this situation, however, going to jail does not mean the end of the story.
Sure, some of the plotline seems predictable, but overall screenwriter Glenn Gers (Fracture) and director Callie Khouri, who created magic with her screenplay Thelma and Louise, bring us a delicious idea wrapped in humor, surprise and good performances.
"I think everyone is fighting the same uphill battle with money—there's never enough," said Khouri. "Money is something we all think about all the time, whether consciously or unconsciously, and this movie taps right into that."
Mad Money includes elements of romance, since all of these woman experience or get into a relationship, and Gers throws in occasional sexual innuendos with a comedic slant -- such as Nina saying, "This is better than Victoria's Secret."
Being disappointed with Keaton's last two comedies ( Something's Gotta Give and Because I Said So), I'm happy to see her grab this idea and run with it. As Bridget, she's adorable, sexy and quite amusing. Latifah always plays her characters with a balance of prudence and optimism. Holmes was equally entertaining, making Jackie appear zany and inattentive, but one who comes through when you least expect it.
Mad Money is a modern zany caper with entertaining performances and a few twists, but it also has substance.
“You can’t write somebody off because of circumstance, because of their age, or because of their past choices," said Keaton. "Each one of these characters grows because they have to deal with each other. It was need that brought them together, but through that they become more authentic people.”
(Released by Overture Films and rated “PG-13” for sexual material and language, and brief drug references).
Review also posted at www.reviewexpress.com.