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Friday, May 2, 2008

MAD MONEY -- DVD review by porfle

Everybody loves money, and a movie like MAD MONEY (2008) allows us to vicariously wallow around in it for awhile. As comedy caper flicks go, it's a little on the light side, but according to the commentary by director Callie Khouri (DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD) that's exactly what she was aiming for--a crime comedy with enough suspense to make it exciting while still being low-key and easy to watch. Which she pretty much succeeded in doing.

Diane Keaton and Ted Danson play Bridget and Don Cardigan, a wealthy couple who suddenly find themselves on the financial skids. Bridget's age and inexperience hamper her efforts to enter the workforce, so she ends up as a janitor at a federal reserve bank where old cash is sent to be destroyed. Seeing all of this beautiful money going to waste gives her a deviously clever idea, which she shares with fellow employees Nina (Queen Latifah, a very good actress) and Jackie (Katie Holmes). Over the next few years they manage to sneak hundreds of thousands of dollars past the ever-vigilant security force. But things finally catch up with them, of course, and it'll take another deviously clever plan for them to avoid spending lengthy prison terms along with their accomplice-spouses.

The movie opens with a flash-forward of the three women frantically destroying mounds of cash while the feds move in on them, so we already know that they get caught red-handed sooner or later. Somehow this adds to the suspense as we watch them getting in deeper and deeper over their heads, since we have no idea how the heck they're gonna get themselves out of it. Director Khouri shows a simple but efficient style throughout, wisely allowing the characters and situations to maintain our interest. By the time the story catches up to those opening scenes again, we're fully invested in it.

Glenn Gers' screenplay (a retelling of the 2001 British TV-movie HOT MONEY) is funny without being jokey, relatively realistic and devoid of goofy comedy bits and one-liners. It's actually based on true events, although the details of the thefts have, of course, been fictionalized. The robberies themselves have some of the tension of a good heist movie, while the characters are given enough depth to allow us to care about them. This is especially true of Queen Latifah's "Nina", who wants the money to help put her two sons into good schools and dreads losing them if she's caught. Her budding, awkward romance with one of the security guards (Roger Cross, "24"), who eventually gets wise to their scheme, is nicely handled.

Diane Keaton goes easy on the usual "lah-dee-dah" stuff, thank goodness, while still giving a lively performance. Katie Holmes does a good job playing an adorable flake, while Adam Rothenberg is even flakier as her husband, Bob. Ted Danson, of course, is Ted Danson. And OFFICE SPACE fans will be happy to see Stephen "Milton" Root as eagle-eyed security chief Glover, who keeps our pilfering protagonists on their toes at all times (although any actual security person with a lick of sense would be all over this scheme like white on rice).

The DVD gives us a choice between anamorphic widescreen and full-frame, with both Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 surround sound. Along with the director's commentary, there's a brief behind-the-scenes featurette and a trailer. The packaging itself is rather nice, but then again you can't go wrong when your design scheme is based on money.

I have to admit, this is the kind of movie that practically screams "DON'T RENT ME" when I see it at the video store. But I'm glad I ended up watching it, because it turned out to be a lot of fun. And with its endless mountains of sweet, beautiful cash on constant display, MAD MONEY is like porno for greedy little money grubbers who dream of easy riches--such as myself. If only the DVD came with a few actual souvenirs.

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