Masterminds (1997) — Shut up, Wesley!

“You know, I’m not a violent man but I really do think I’m going to have to kill someone here.”

Justin’s rating: Make it so-so

Justin’s review: When you’ve become pretty famous say, for example, being the captain of the Starship Enterprise on a seven-year hit TV series, it’s pretty important to be picky with future projects. Go up, not down, is what I’m saying. And while Patrick Stewart did crank out four Star Trek movies and eventually rise (by sitting) to be Professor X in the X-Men movies, he took a really weird detour in the mid-90s to star as the mustachioed villain of an extremely light Die Hard knock-off called Masterminds.

Part Hackers, part Home Alone, and all ’90s hairstyle and tiny sunglasses, Masterminds wastes very little time before “borrowing” from its sources. Teen hacker Ozzy — who spends an entire night trying to download an advance copy of Scream 2 —  is tapped by his dad to escort his little sister to the very prep school that he got expelled from back in the day. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s the same morning that terrorists arrive to hold a bunch of kids ransom against their rich parents!

Yeah, I guess it’s a bit Toy Soldiers as well.

The terrorists are being led by Bentley (Stewart), a security expert who opened a door for all of the bad guys to come into the school. Of course, Bentley didn’t predict that there’d be an angsty, rebellious hacker on the premises, so now it’s all-out war between them. Ozzy may be outnumbered, but he’s got the flowing locks of hair and years of experience crawling around the school and tormenting teachers. This being a kid-friendly movie, nobody ever gets shot and killed, although plenty of cars get blown up well and good. In response, there are plenty of opportunities for Ozzy to prank the bad guys and gradually up their stress levels.

I guess the filmmakers are tapping into the fantasy that rebels are simply in training for that one day when they’ll actually be called to fight a small army of stormtroopers. And if they have to absolutely wreck the school in the process? That’s win-win, baby!

While I can fault Patrick Stewart for slumming in this bargain bin special, I don’t blame the filmmakers for casting him. He channels all of those years of being frustrated at Wesley Crusher into a smooth-talking and slightly skeezy bad guy. He’s not exactly Hans Gruber, but neither is he given the opportunity to blow people’s heads off. I still think he’s better than a lot of kid movie villains, though, and he helps give the threat of the otherwise buffoonish robbers some heft.

Toothless though it may be, Masterminds kind of grows on you despite being cheesy, unbelievable, and full of the worst one-liners ever written. The stakes are believably high — the movie shows the parents starting to freak out when they realize what’s happened — and the action is paced well (even if there are too many shots that are closer to the camera than should be). I guess it all comes down to if you can derive any enjoyment from a teen turning the table on robbers and being so ’90s it hurts. I kind of can, which is why I get shunned by most of my family these days.

Didja notice?

  • This is totally how hacking looks, complete with polite “this is unauthorized, do you still wish to enter?” prompts and a virtual reality interface!
  • That’s an awful lot of work to download a pirated copy of Scream 2 (including an 8 hour, 42 minute download!)
  • That kid has too many laser tripwires in his room
  • I miss being able to threaten kids with military school
  • All the coolest kids in the ’90s had little round sunglasses
  • You were never so cool that you got to skateboard to class with your own alt rock score
  • I’m sorry, I can’t take the bad guys seriously with yellow jumpsuits and blue bucket hats
  • Haha the bad guys were wearing wigs and fake mustaches
  • “I’m telling you, we got a Die Hard situation here!”
  • Every prep school has a haunted dining room somewhere… I guess?
  • I got a huge laugh when Ozzy lit up an entire candelabra to carry around with him
  • Oooh the school has a GCI model
  • These walkie talkies have incredible range — but no mute button?
  • Nitric acid is your friend!
  • Did he just crush that guy to death with coal?
  • Sure, they managed to mine the whole school. And nobody gets hurt, just showered with dirt.
  • The bad guy continuing to read the paper and smoke while the sprinklers come on — and all of the bad guys holding umbrellas
  • Those computers stand up to constant water saturation far better than I would have predicted
  • Well that guy just electrocuted himself
  • Bentley’s jaunty little dance is quite amusing
  • Sewer dune buggies, why not!

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