Mad Money

2008, Movie, PG-13, 107 mins


Oscar-winning screenwriter Callie Khouri (THELMA & LOUISE) continues her increasingly undistinguished career as a director with this bland remake of the popular 2001 made-for-British-TV movie HOT MONEY. The script, written not by Khouri but by Glenn Gers (FRACTURE), initially addresses the predicament older women face upon reentering the workforce after years spent raising a family, but the follow-through is a major disappointment.

Bridget Cardigan (Diane Keaton) is an upper-middle-class Kansas City housewife whose husband, Don (Ted Danson), lost his job in a corporate downsizing. Everything may still look OK from the outside, but the reality is that Don hasn't worked in over a year and the Cardigans are not only out of cash, they're now $286,000 in debt. When Bridget learns that Don is about to put their lovely home on the market, she breaks down, scans the help-wanted ads and takes the only job this overeducated, underexperienced woman of a certain age has been offered: janitor at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, where district banks send old, worn-out paper currency to be destroyed. After a few days scrubbing toilets and emptying the trash, clever Bridget figures out how she can turn her bad luck into a huge fortune. The money, she notices, follows a strictly regimented, carefully watched path: After being placed into large, locked cash carts, the bills are wheeled by an employee first into the treasury inspection room, then into the shredding chamber where another employee stuffs the bills into the machine that turns valuable money into worthless scraps of paper. Watching the money as it moves from floor to floor, Bridget realizes there's a way of pocketing the packets of the cash just before they're mulched, the beauty of this "evidence-less" crime being that no one will ever know that the bank has been robbed because the stolen money is no longer supposed to exist. The plan is surprisingly simple — Bridget knows the only reason her superiors don't see the gaping hole in their carefully designed system is because they've never had to take out their own trash — but risky: The Fed's head of security (Gavin Root) prides himself on "keeping an eye on everyone, everywhere, every minute." To pull it off, Bridget needs some inside help, which she finds in shredder Nina Brewster (Queen Latifah) and ditzy cash-cart pusher Jackie Truman (Katie Holmes). Bridget trusts her accomplices, but she's soon tripped up by the one factor she never took into account: her own overweening greed.

Once the star of some of the finest movies of the '70s and '80s, Keaton has begun making just this kind of chick-flick comedy with increasing regularity at least since 1996's THE FIRST WIVES CLUB, and it's gotten so she's not even trying to get into character anymore. It often doesn't matter — Keaton is certainly charming enough playing herself, and a movie like this one doesn't demand much — but when Bridget goes from desperate housewife to recklessly greedy criminal who puts the custody of Nina's children at risk, we need more in order for the character to make sense. Khouri's direction doesn't help: We're asked to laugh along with Bridget as she sticks it to the Fed, and whatever critique of desire and greed the original script intended is lost amid all the bland good times. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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