Gals find a use for old dough

Posted: January 18, 2008

Mad Money, the distaff Ocean's Eleven, stars human seesaw Diane Keaton, earthly balance beam Queen Latifah, and the otherworldly whirligig Katie Holmes as a trio of Federal Reserve Bank employees who stage an inside job.

None dare call it "stealing." As the cash they pinch is scheduled for shredding, they prefer to call it "recycling."

A likable and completely dispensable heist film starring two of the deftest comedians working (Keaton and Latifah), the film from Callie Khouri is itself an American retread of the British caper telefilm Hot Money.

Khouri, still best known for her Oscar-winning screenplay Thelma & Louise, opens her movie with arresting images. The characters who literally don't have cash to burn are flushing it down the toilet. Flashback to how it all came to this. Executive summary: It's the economy, stupid.

When her money-manager husband is downsized and can't find work, upper-class Bridget Cardigan (Keaton) - a computer-illiterate sexagenarian with a degree in comparative literature - looks for work. The only job she qualifies for is scrubbing toilets at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank.

In a nice visual joke, stylish Bridget turns up the lapels of her custodian's coveralls to make it look like a mandarin collar.

In an even nicer one, the sight of the money-hungry homemaker ogling the pillars of bills is like that of a love-starved man in the beauty-pageant dressing room.

Before you can say greenback, Bridget devises a way to stash the Benjamins about to be trashed into her trashbags and out past security.

To achieve this, she needs the collaboration of Nina Brewster (Queen Latifah), a shredder and single mother looking for a better school for her boys. And they need the help of Jackie Truman (Katie Holmes), the gum-snapping trailer-trash ditz tasked with moving money from one floor to another.

As with Thelma and Louise, Khouri has much affection for her gal outlaws and amused tolerance for their husbands and boyfriends. Ted Danson is charmingly self-effacing as Bridget's husband, Don, Adam Rothenberg cloddishly comic as Jackie's beau, Bob, and Roger Cross genuinely sweet as Nina's immediate superior and swain, Barry.

To the extent that the film has any value beyond the charms of its principals, it satirizes how women are (mis)treated in the workplace.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl/

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