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Laramie Movie Scope:
Money Monster

Almost a good satire, but not quite

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 14, 2016 -- Jodie Foster's new film, “Money Monster,” starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts tries to make a movie about the shortcomings of financial TV news. It tries to be a bit like “Network.” However, it doesn't quite make the grade. Actually, the romantic comedy “Broadcast News” hits harder at journalistic problems than “Money Monster” does.

When famed news comedian Jon Stewart took on CNBC's financial guru Jim Cramer, it was an effective takedown of the kind of stock market hype targeted in “Money Monster” (you can find the Stewart-Cramer videos on Youtube or on Comedy Central's web site). “Money Market” skirts the edges of the very problems that Stewart nailed on his show.

Lee Gates (played by George Clooney) hosts a Cramer-like financial advice TV show called Money Monster, complete with song and dance numbers and lots of show business glitz and glamor. A disgruntled viewer, Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell of “Unbroken”) takes Gates hostage on air, angry because he lost all his money on a bad Gates stock tip. For this story to work, the show has to be live, but this kind of show would be taped in the real world.

The bad stock tip is for a hot high-tech company, IBIS Global Capital, headed by CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West of “Testament of Youth”). Walt Camby was supposed to appear on Gates' show to explain why his company's stock suddenly tanked to the tune of $600 million. Budwell's money disappeared along with the money of a lot of other investors when that happened.

IBIS spokesman Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe of “Now You See Me”) tries to explain away the loss of all that money as a “computer glitch,” but Budwell is not buying it. Money Monster producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) and other reporters, producers, and some friendly hackers, start trying to find Walt Camby, who has gone missing. Along the way they find clues about what really happened to the $600 million, and it was not a computer glitch.

The police arrive, and their plan, predictably is to solve the problem with bullets. Budwell has locked down the studio and has strapped an explosive vest to Camby. He is holding a “dead man switch.” If he releases the switch, the vest blows up, and takes an area over 100 feet around it. He also has a gun. Camby tries to persuade Budwell to give up, but he handles the situation pretty badly at first. The more he talks, the worse things get.

The plot goes off the rails near the end of the film with a lot of wildly improbable events, leading to a very non-satirical ending. The story gives off a lot of mixed messages about finance and journalism, and it lacks the emotional punch it was striving for. It is an emotional roller coaster, a bit short on humor and suspense, although it does try mightily to develop some suspense. On the other hand, there are some interesting plot twists and unexpected developments in the film.

This is a mixed bag of ideas and emotions that doesn't quite add up to a good movie. It rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)