Mad Money

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“Mad Money” plays like the chick-flick version of “Ocean’s Eleven,” with the emotional stakes played up and the logistics of the heist played down. It’s men who are most interested in gadgets and technicalities, after all; women prefer films about relationships. I’m generalizing, but hey, so is the movie. It’s one of the most general movies I’ve seen in a while: generally entertaining, generally watchable, generally unremarkable.

Directed by “Thelma & Louise” writer Callie Khouri, it’s the fluffy, shallow story of three women who work at a federal reserve bank and plot to steal decommissioned currency before it’s shredded. But they are not criminals, these women. The only reason they even entertain the notion is that the money is going to be destroyed anyway. No one will miss it, and there are no victims.

Of course, the bank managers (led by Stephen Root as a particularly eagle-eyed administrator) are aware that their employees might be tempted to take a little to-be-shredded cash home with them, so security is tight. To pull it off, you need the cooperation of three levels of employees: someone who shreds the money, someone who pushes the carts full of money from one floor to the next, and a janitor.

The janitor and ringleader is Bridget (Diane Keaton), a flighty, middle-aged, upper-middle-class WASP — a stretch for Diane Keaton, I know — who must take the custodial job after her husband (Ted Danson) is downsized. They’re in the process of selling their expensive home and are steeling themselves to live a much more frugal lifestyle. Evidently this is unacceptable to Bridget — they’re in financial straits yet she still has a housekeeper and drives a Range Rover — and so the theft seems reasonable to her.

Her partners are Nina (Queen Latifah), a single mom living in the ‘hood who just wants a better life for her kids, and Jackie (Katie Holmes), a perky young lady who lives in a trailer with her husband. Apart from that and the fact that she’s diabetic, we know nothing about her.

In fact, we don’t really know much about anyone beyond their basic character traits. Keaton is shrilly goofy, as always, more endearingly so than the last time we saw her (“Because I Said So”shudder), and that’s OK as far as it goes. But considering she’s the protagonist of the film, it’s strange that no effort is made to explain her thought process. There’s a point where the trio has stolen enough cash to pay off their debts and be comfortable — and that’s when Bridget insists they keep going. This puts everyone in considerable danger; it’s greed, pure and simple. Why does Bridget succumb so easily to it? And why does the film (by “Fracture” screenwriter Glenn Gers) play it off like it’s all just harmless and cute?

Nothing in the movie suggests that we should ponder the consequences of the ladies’ actions. Goodness knows the ladies themselves don’t. They get their loot, we get a few laughs out of it, and all is well. I guess you’re just not supposed to think about it, so I’ll stop.

C+ (1 hr., 42 min.; PG-13, a little profanity, some sexual dialogue.)

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