In 1997, David Scott Ghantt managed to pull off the biggest cash heist in American history, taking $17.3 million from the vault of the Charlotte, N.C., armored car service where he worked as a driver.

That's no small feat.

I mean, it's really impressive.

But if you believe Masterminds, the latest comedy from Napoleon Dynamite writer-director Jared Hess, Ghantt was a bumbling idiot, an overweight fool with really bad hair who couldn't tie his own shoelaces.

An over-the-top heist farce/romantic comedy, Masterminds stars Zach Galifianakis of the Hangover trilogy. His Ghantt is a lovable goof without a mean bone in his body who is happy with his boring life until he falls head over heels for fellow armored car driver Kelly Campbell.

Portrayed brilliantly by a very Jennifer Aniston-ish Kristen Wiig, Kelly is a sweet gal who isn't the least bit interested in Ghantt, but who is so awfully polite that she doesn't correct his harmless delusions or dissuade him from his singularly asexual courtship.

Things turn dark when Kelly's ne'er-do-well pal Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) and his scheming wife, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Ellis), persuade Kelly to talk Ghantt into pulling off the heist.

Masterminds is filled with the sort of idiotic bathroom humor that has become standard in big-screen comedies, but it is enlivened by the surreal slapstick touches that made Napoleon Dynamite so good.

Even though it isn't the sharpest comedy, it had me in stitches.

Galifianakis is deft at physical comedy. His Ghantt is straight out of the Marx Brothers, a painfully awkward man-child with a singularly funny, odd stride - he moves like a booze-addled disco dancer.

And the situations he gets into are marvelously absurd. After going on the lam in Mexico, he's hunted down by an assassin (Jason Sudeikis), who ends up falling in love with him.

Hess makes sure to surround him with an assortment of equally strange characters, including his one-time fiancée Jandice (Kate McKinnon), a deeply unhappy woman with caked-on makeup who spends all her energy pretending to be chipper.

Leslie Jones and Jon Daly are serviceable as a pair of FBI agents so incompetent they wouldn't even by hired by the Keystone Kops. Wilson is wonderfully deranged as the real mastermind behind the heist, who tries again and again to have Ghantt killed once the job is done.

The real-life Ghantt served more than seven years in federal prison. No idiot, as it turns out, he also served as a creative consultant on the film, no doubt earning himself a nice fee.

I'd say he has the last laugh.





2 1/2 (Out of four stars)

Directed by Jared Hess. With Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon. Distributed by Relativity Media.

Running time: 1 hour, 34 mins.

Parent's guide: Rated PG-13 (crude and sexual humor, some profanity and violence).

Playing at: Area theaters.