Dir: Callie Khouri. US. 2007. 104 mins.
A relentlessly upbeat all-women heist comedy along the lines of How To Beat The High Cost Of Living and Fun With Dick And Jane, Mad Money is inoffensive star-driven entertainment which might capture the imagination of female audiences in theatres, before heading for a much richer life as a TV programming item down the line.
Marking its first ever theatrical release, Overture Films is opening the film in the US on Jan 18 and hoping to catch the same adult female moviegoers who made medium-sized early year hits of Last Holiday with Mad Money's Queen Latifah in 2006 ($38.4m), and Diane Keaton starrer Because I Said So ($42.7m) in 2007. The name draws of Latifah and Keaton combined with the tabloid power of Katie Holmes will help the film domestically.
International audiences will be less enthused over this run-of-the-mill comedy, especially with two other independently financed Keaton vehicles in the marketplace this year, namely Smother and Mama's Boy.
The film is a US remake of the 2001 UK TV film Hot Money about a team of cleaners who steal thousands from the Bank Of England. Set in Kansas City (but shot in a dreary Shreveport, Louisiana, last winter), the Americanised version stars Keaton as Bridget Cardigan, a well-to-do society woman about to lose her house and her comfortable lifestyle when her husband Don (Danson) loses his job.
Forced to get a job, but woefully short on any professional skills, she gets hired as a cleaning lady at the Federal Reserve Bank and quickly comes up with a plan to smuggle used currency which is about to be incinerated out of the building. She enlists single mother Nina (Latifah) and ditzy youngster Jackie (Holmes) to her scheme and the three women successfully begin stealing thousands of dollars hidden in their clothes.
As the money keeps rolling in, Don and Jackie's boyfriend (Rothenburg) get involved in the scheme and they even rope in a security guard at the bank played by Roger Cross. But having originally planned to stop after scoring the money they needed to keep afloat, the ladies get greedy. Once they start making ostentatious purchases, the authorities are onto them.
Told in flashback and interspersed with police interviews with the protagonists, Mad Money is likeable enough and the heist scenes themselves are well handled by director Callie Khouri, the Oscar-winning screenwriter who previously directed Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood in 2002.
Keaton, Latifah and Holmes have appealing chemistry, although it's not enough to sustain a too-long 104 minute running time, especially as the plot gets increasingly zany and loses grasp on any dramatic sense. Obviously Keaton is a natural comedienne but, after a few more of these featherweight fripperies, her credibility will start to wear seriously thin.
Big City Pictures
Michael P Flanagan
Robert O Green
Based on the screenplay Hot Money by Neil McKay and Terry Winsor
(based on an original screenplay by John Mister)
Director of photography
Wendy Greene Bricmont
James Newton Howard