Movie Review: 'Mad Money'

In the heist comedy "Mad Money" a trio of cleaning ladies loot a Federal Reserve Bank of millions in old bank notes headed for the shredder. They figure nobody will notice.

Much the same thing could be said of this film, which may not be awful enough to merit shredding but which evaporates from the memory the minute the lights come up.

Diane Keaton plays Bridget, a country club housewife in Kansas City whose businessman hubby (Ted Danson) has been downsized. Now he just sits around the house moping, the bank account has bottomed out and the future is grim.

With no employment history and a degree in comparative literature, Bridget takes the only job she can get — on the FED's custodial crew. Surrounded by money, she can't help fantasizing about all the wrinkled, torn and dirty currency that is destroyed every day — and begins hatching a plot to get some of it. She convinces herself that this is recycling, not stealing.

Soon she has roped into her nefarious scheme single mom Nina (Queen Latifah), who works in the shredding room, and trailer-court ditz Jackie (Katie Holmes), who pushes around carts crammed with old bills. Before long they're walking out with their undies stuffed with cash.

Glen Gers and John Mister's screenplay, based on a 2001 British made-for-TV film, manages to be mildly diverting without ever being truly funny; cleverness is not its strong suit. Their most daring twist is a framing device that finds the characters frantically trying to destroy the huge piles of cash they've accumulated and then has them being grilled by the cops, an early sign that the ladies won't get away with their criminal enterprise. The rest of the movie is a flashback.

Stealing the money is the easy part. The danger comes with the temptation to spend it, which would certainly attract the attention of the authorities. Keaton's Bridget is determined to resume her consumer lifestyle, a shallow obsession that negates whatever sympathy we may have for the character.

"Mad Money" feels like it was build from spare parts. The casting — a late middle-aged white star, an African-American icon and a youthful cutie — is all too clearly intended to appeal to specific audience demographics.

Indeed, "Mad Money" is the first title to be made under a new project to create commercial films for $10 million or less. That would account for its made-for-TV feel.

Callie Khouri (who won an Oscar for her screenplay for "Thelma & Louise") provides workmanlike but unremarkable direction.

Get showtimes and movie details for "Mad Money."

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