- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Overture Films
Reviewed by David Medsker
y all rights, “Mad Money” should be an unholy mess. For starters, look no further than the casting. Diane Keaton, Katie Holmes and Queen Latifah in a movie? And not just any movie, but a comedy about three women who rob the Federal Reserve? No, no, and hell to the no. But “Mad Money,” in spite of itself, manages to be occasionally bearable. That may not sound like an endorsement, but that is as flattering a comment they’re gonna get, and it is arguably more flattering than the movie deserves.
Diane Keaton is Bridget, a kept woman who’s forced to look for a job when her breadwinning husband (Ted Danson) is downsized and their debt threatens to destroy their lavish lifestyle. Bridget has no real marketable skills, and winds up with a job as a janitor for the Kansas City Federal Reserve. As she watches Nina (Queen Latifah), whose job is to destroy the bills that the Fed takes out of circulation, she devises a plan to skim from the till before the money is destroyed. For her plan to work, though, she needs a “cart girl,” in this case the trailer park space case Jackie (Katie Holmes), to help them. The plan, amazingly, works, but problems arise when Bridget wants to keep stealing while Nina, a single mom, fears getting caught and losing custody of her kids. Nina’s fears are compounded when security guard Barry (Roger Cross) catches on to their scheme.
The movie’s premise can’t win for losing. If they play it as a screwball comedy, then it hits the aforementioned unholy mess levels, because it would allow Diane Keaton to mug even more than she already does, and the woman needs to be muzzled as it is. (We won’t even get into how far Katie Holmes has fallen as an actress.) Instead, they play it as a dramedy, but that decision results in about a million red-flag moments where every bone in your body will scream, “For the love of God, noooooooo!” Given the choice between smart people occasionally doing dumb things and dumb people doing reaaaaallly dumb things, I would opt for the former just as the movie does, but neither choice is much of an option. Good thing Queen Latifah and Danson are there to balance out the lunatics that surround them. Indeed, Danson’s character actually gets smarter as the movie goes along, which is the exact opposite of everyone else in the movie.
Perhaps the smart-being-dumb tactic may have worked had the third act not thrown all logic out the window. Somewhere in this movie was an “Inside Man”-style misdirection just waiting to be had – more than one, in fact – but writer Glen Gers, working from the script of a 2001 UK TV movie, chooses to keep it nice and simple, as in short-bus simple. To elaborate would mean giving too much away, but suffice it to say that anyone as cunning as Bridget would have been much too smart to not see the opportunities and pitfalls before her. Likewise, the authorities tracking them would not have been a tenth as clueless in real life as they are here.
There are movies that are so crazy or silly that it is easy to suspend disbelief and go along for the ride (“Shoot ‘Em Up,” for example). “Mad Money,” on the other hand, is like “Shoot ‘Em Up” trying to pass itself off as “In the Line of Fire.” There are things that you just cannot have both ways. “Mad Money” might – might – have worked as one or the other; instead it tried to be both, and failed miserably at both.