Mad Money comes with quite a pedigree. Director Callie Khouri wrote Thelma and Louise. Star Diane Keaton is an Oscar winning actress with credits that include The Godfather, Annie Hall and Reds. Co-star Queen Latifah is an Oscar nominee and was the first hip hop artist to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Supporting actor Ted Danson is best known for his role as Sam Malone on Cheers and once won Funniest Male Performer in a TV Series from the American Comedy Awards. So you’d think with all that know-how, all those years of experience, that this team would be able to make a good movie.
You’d be wrong.
Mad Money, is a heist movie in the vein of Ocean’s 11, except the snazzy suits, stylish setting, most of the entertainment value and all the good looking boys are gone. In their place is Diane Keaton as yuppie housewife Bridget Cardigan, a woman used to the finer things in life who must return to the workforce when her executive husband is downsized. Faced with mounting debt she is forced to take a job as a janitor at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank.
Realizing the Sisyphean task of trying to pay off her debts on her meager salary she teams up with two other employees—Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes—to steal worn-out money (hiding it in their underwear!) that has been taken out of circulation and is about to be destroyed.
Rich people on the skids have been the subject of a lot of movies and Mad Money greedily looks to them for inspiration. It is a caper film like Fun with Dick and Jane, but without the Dick. Or the fun. It’s aspires to the social comment of How to Beat the High Co$t of Living without actually seriously—comedies can have serious undertones too!— exploring any social issues. “Don’t get greedy” is about as deep as it gets here.
Don’t get me wrong it doesn’t take social context in order for me to get the joke, but this movie could use some perspective to deepen the humor. Why can’t Bridget get a job? Why is her husband unemployable? Let us get to know the characters and set up a real reason for us to care about them and the movie’s humor will have much more resonance. As it is Bridget and her husband are just formerly rich people who’ll do anything to keep up with the Jones and as a result, not very interesting.
But then again, there’s nothing much interesting about this movie. The story, although based on true events, is slight and the attempts to pump it up by introducing romance feel manipulative and sentimental, not sexy or interesting. It doesn’t feel worthy of a big screen treatment, and it comes as no surprise that it is based on a British made-for-television movie called Hot Money.
The title says it all—you’ll be mad if you spend your money on this film.