Silver Chips Online

Madness is not all good

"Mad Money" makes great use of characters, but lacks significantly in substance

By Kevin Teng, Online News Editor
January 16, 2008
Stealing money always looks easy in movies. Teams of people walk away with loads of cash, ranging from old Western train robberies to hi-tech casino break-ins. In the end, the subterfuge is complicated and near perfect, carried out seriously. "Mad Money" differs by putting lax into the strategy, so much that the movie feels incomplete.

The three protagonists, Bridget Cardigan (Diane Keaton), Nina Brewster (Queen Latifah) and Jackie Truman (Katie Holmes), plot to steal soon-to-be destroyed cash, flaunting sexual references and frantic exclamations in a largely failed effort to make the movie fun and happy. The characters and their various partners aim to circumvent strict security measures at a Federal Reserve Bank, all claiming that they need the money, giving a humorous tone to a rather humorless plot.

As a remake of a 2001 British television movie called "Hot Money," the movie relishes on gender differences (women outsmarting the men). Like its British predecessor, "Mad Money" encourages the audience to cheer for thieves, stressing humor over morality.

Although the movie is hilarious at times, constant character development undermines the plot, making it seem too simple for a crime and punishment story. Unlike movies such as "The Italian Job" and "Ocean's Eleven," which detail serious circumstances and motives behind the thievery, "Mad Money" focuses more on humorous particulars about the characters that have little significance. This movie fosters a poor balance between seriousness and humor – it is neither serious nor funny enough to shine in either aspect.

Disregarding the plot, character development is substantial and helps bolster the movie. The main characters are all crazy in one or more ways and compliment each other strikingly well. Bridget, the craziest and smartest, counterbalances the cautious Nina and the simple-minded Jackie. The partners, Don Cardigan (Ted Danson), Barry (Roger Cross) and Bob Truman (Adam Rothenberg), represent their female counterparts with parallel traits. These six characters are cast fantastically – their facial expressions and tones in their voices are realistic, making the characters serious or humorous to fit character. This superb acting contributes significantly to the general entertainment of the movie because it helps the characters pull off their jokes, even when the jokes are not that good.

One odd aspect of the movie is the amount of middle-aged sexual innuendo. Bridget and Jackie tease Nina about sex too often, sometimes distastefully. In moderation, such jokes can even be healthy, but a flood of them coming from otherwise respectable characters is creepy. This is not another teen movie – the seriousness of some characters shows that jokes can be less risqué.

Fortunately, "Mad Money" contains plenty of stupid, clean humor to outweigh the crude. The curiously gay musings of the head security officer (Stephen Root) and the sheer stupidity of Ben help cleanse the perverseness of the movie. The general irrationality complex that fills all of the characters prevails, creating slapstick laughs – empathy towards most of the characters is nonexistent. As a result, this humor relies on stupidity rather than wit, which is a horrible partner to a serious plotline.

While thievery is normally serious and malignant, "Mad Money" makes stealing from the government somewhat enjoyable to watch. The movie entertains in that it gives cheap laughs, but fails to fulfill any true lasting enjoyment that movies require.

"Mad Money" is rated PG-13 for sexual material and language, and brief drug references. In theaters Jan. 18.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/8073