By Felix Vasquez Jr. | February 1, 2008

The best way to describe Callie Khouri’s “Mad Money” is as “Ocean’s Eleven” if it were geared to the drones at the Oprah Winfrey book club. It’s every bit as schmaltzy, saccharine, and bland as every Lifetime or Oxygen flick that you’ve ever seen, with the expected amount of pro-feminist malarkey most films possess that works at such high levels it pretty much excuses the illegal activity these women take part in because hey, it’s a tough world, and they’re women.

It’s almost that same exception you receive when a woman has four bratty obnoxious kids. “Hey, she’s a single mom, cut her some slack.” Writer Gers goes through every painstaking exception for these women, but can never quite convince me that what they’re doing is justified. At the end of the day, it’s still three felons robbing a bank and risking their lives in the process and for what, really?

“Mad Money” is not the worst movie or remake of the year as I originally deduced, and that’s not particularly a good thing, as the film is most of the time just a half assed effort in every sense of the word. The performances are dull, the story is lackluster and void of any tension or suspense, the comedy is as bland as pound cake with nary a laugh in all of the running time, and the overall dynamic between the women is awkward and forced.

I simply couldn’t believe that these women were friends, let alone partners in crime, and yet we have to watch them forcing chemistry with shrill characters staggering around the screen in a convoluted plot to rob a bank they work in for money that’s supposed to be destroyed. They agree to sneak out the money in their bras and panties, and then the s**t hits the fan when they spend without considering the IRS.

The limp wristed antagonist is in the form of a suspicious bank manager played by Stephen Root who is grossly underused, and then there are our heroines. Diane Keaton continues slumming as an obnoxious and selfish aristocrat forced into blue collar work after her husband is fired, and manipulates and forces single mom Nina, and working ditz Jackie into joining in on the scheme. On the same wavelength of boredom and lethargy, Latifah is the cliché ethnic single mom doing it for herself and trying to get by, while Holmes’ performance as Jackie is inconspicuous enough to call it a walk-on.

Gers and Khourie pull every trick and device in the book to keep the film from meandering into inevitable dramatic tension, and instead resort to insulting our intelligence to pull it off but fail. Based on the utterly idiotic climax, “Mad Money” surpasses logic, morals, and basic intelligence just to cop out with a pat happy ending because, hey, they’re women, and they deserve what they’re entitled to, regardless of who pays.

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