Mad Money

Mad Money (2007)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, Katie Holmes, Ted Danson
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Trailer

Nothing draws mass appeal to a lighthearted comedy about white collar crime than a sour economy. The "Ocean's Eleven" redux and its sequels apply themselves to the lower and middle classes who derive envy in the sheer chutzpah of pulling off high stakes looting, particularly to a budget-strapped wartime generation trying to make the mortgage, rent, gas and food, much less divvying out spare income into slot machines and Texas Hold 'Em buy-in pots. Thus a movie like "Mad Money" stands the chance to endear itself to an everyman's cause in which the upper middle class meets the lower brackets in a chuckle-filled cash 'n stash comedy vehicle.

Just the term "mad money" becomes something of the fantastical in hard financial times as we draw perilously close to a recession in this country. To have excess cash and disposable income to flaunt and spree with has become the proverbial wet dream of the average Joe paying more for a case of soda these days than a pack of pork chops. Pretty soon TV is going to be forced to shift back to nouveau riche teledramas like "Dallas" and "Dynasty" (ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money" is already showing the way) just as coping mechanisms, because let's face the facts; we're obsessed with the rich and doubly consumed with finding the fast track to our own fortunes. The prospect of having your own stash of personal "mad money" with which to entertain your private consumption desires alone is going to suck you in and plop you down in front of this film.

Diane Keaton and Ted Danson play a pair of suburbanite yuppies, Bridget and Don Cardigan (even the last names are a joking swipe at Preppieville), whose peachy white man's world is suddenly turned on its head when Danson is downsized from his job. Suddenly faced with insurmountable debt from excessive living, and a suddenly disaffected spouse, Keaton opts to go to back work, which she hasn't faced in decades due to her posh homemaker lifestyle. After unsuccessfully procuring a standard-paying job, she finds herself stepping down to take work as a janitor in the Federal Reserve where the gnashing sight of discontinued and shredded money inspires her to formulate an insane heist.

Recruiting the always ghetto-fabulous Queen Latifah and a bouncy, bubble headed Katie Holmes into her crime caper, "Mad Money" plods along at a near-polite pace as the three conspirators improbably get away with lifting bucket loads of dirty cash. Most people won't buy into the way a government facility with airtight security has just enough of a pinhole with which to smuggle out millions of dollars, but that suspension of disbelief is what the producers and director Callie Khouri (who also wrote the screenplays for "Thelma & Louise," "Something to Talk About" and "The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood," the latter of which she also directed) are, excuse the pun, banking on with their audience.

"Mad Money" isn't the explosion and fisticuff fiesta that Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, ad nauseum offers to an action-starved demographic. "Mad Money" is on the hair's edge of a Lifetime Channel original film and undoubtedly the movie beams towards its decidedly-large female demographic, while most dudes will likely bail and scramble for the teeth-dislodging UFC.

"Mad Money" is a crime story without Steve McQueen or George Clooney to mastermind it. In this case, Diane Keaton leads the way based on survivalist materialism, which is the film's core message. As Keaton becomes enamored with the ease of her cash 'n carry exploits, she begins to ignore the warnings of her partners and becomes spend thrifty and reckless until the trio is finally caught. In a finale that plays realistic only in Gomer Pyle's world, Keaton, Latifah and Holmes are eventually exonerated after Keaton initially ditches her partners then returns with a tax attorney who gets them all off with the condition they leave penniless. Of course, Keaton has had the foresight to put away an entire stash of "mad money" in the basement of their favorite bar; the laugh's on the feds, the common folk win in the end, fade to black, 'er, green

The thing with "Mad Money" is that it's not a bad movie, though it was critically panned and left for dead in the theaters, despite the ticket drawability of the always-reliable Queen Latifah. Still, without the chemistry of its core sisterhood, "Mad Money" would probably have less going for it. The sheer daydream of beating the law to the tune of Duane Eddy or Judas Priest is the underlying factor that carries "Mad Money." Sure, we'd all love to be able to pull off such a ridiculous stunt, but if anyone in their right minds thinks they could camouflage millions of smackers in baggy clothing on the way out of a federal reserve, well, they might as well start learning how to count cards and cheat the casinos like in "21."

"Mad Money" won't set your television on fire, but it's respectably directed and performed and certainly not a bad way to droll away an hour forty-three. This DVD also has a behind-the-scenes featurette and a commentary track from Callie Khouri. God bless the folks at Anchor Bay, they also offer the film in both wide and full screens on the same disc, which other industry makers ought to take from their cue in the interest of resources, if not reducing the frustration of inadvertently buying a full screen disc when you much more preferred wide.