“This feels like a TV movie,” I kept telling myself during a recent advanced screening of director Callie Khouri’s Mad Money and despite the fact that I found myself laughing at the humorous antics of the film’s engaging trio of leading ladies, I was plagued by what felt like an overwhelmingly small screen approach. Sure enough, when I began researching the film further in preparation for writing about it, I discovered that it was a remake of a television movie made a few years earlier entitled Hot Money. I haven’t seen Hot Money so I can’t speak for the similarities or quality between the two but given the considerable talent involved in making the jump to silver screen, needless to say, I was hoping it would’ve left the television roots behind and-- while we’re on the subject-- am I the only one worried about the upcoming Sex and the City movie?
Anyway, we’ll leave Mr. Big out of it… Mad Money stars Diane Keaton playing essentially the Diane Keaton we’ve come to know and love in her post Allen films such as Something’s Gotta Give, Father of the Bride, and The First Wives Club. In Mad Money she plays Bridget Cardigan who’s shocked to discover that her successful husband (Ted Danson) has been laid off from his cushy position in corporate America. Without current computer skills aside from a fondness for Google and a comparative literature degree coupled with her decades as a wife and mother, Bridget is forced to take a position as a janitor at the Federal Reserve Bank. From pretty much the first moment she sets foot on the premises as a trainee, Bridget’s eyes fixate on the cartloads of cash being taken from one floor to another until they’re brought to the basement where they’re shredded. Everything about Bridget screams suspicious—even the simple act of walking from one television screen to another with a can of spray and a dust-rag is underscored with scheming and quickly, she crafts a plan to smuggle hundreds of thousands of soon to be destroyed bills out of the reserve in a plan she justifies as more recycling than stealing. Needing additional help, Bridget enlists the help of the carefree compulsively peppy Jackie (Katie Holmes) who is mostly seen dancing to the music only she can hear in her headphones while she pops her chewing gum and pushes the cartloads down to their third accomplice Nina (Queen Latifah) who spends her days in the shredding room worrying about the quality of life and education her two sons are experiencing as a single parent. Nina is the most down-to-earth and relatable of the film’s cartoon-like characters and Queen Latifah makes a terrific straight-woman to the sometimes off-putting bumbling of Keaton that reminds viewers of the character repeatedly played by her old partner in filmmaking crime, Woody Allen.
Given a spoiler of an opening that introduces viewers to the women when they’re each trying to destroy money (which makes some of their theft and planning feel anticlimactic), the film would’ve benefitted considerably by starting with Keaton and Danson struggling to make ends meet in our troubled economy ala the Carrey and Leoni vehicle Fun With Dick and Jane. However, the charm of the women make the film work and keep us invested even when we’re thinking that the actresses (especially Latifah) deserve better and that the amount of mileage Keaton has with her foolish character is growing a bit old and we wish for some greater work that shows the tremendous range she’d displayed in work like The Godfather trilogy and Reds. A fun film for mothers and daughters and much more effective than Keaton’s awful Because I Said So, Mad Money will probably do even better when it’s put into the premium movie channel rotation on Starz, which incidentally was one of the studio production companies involved.