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Review: “Money Monster” (R)

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George Clooney and Julia Roberts in “Money Monster”; Atsushi Nishijima/©2016 CTMG(NEW YORK) — George Clooney is Lee Gates, a Jim Cramer Mad Money type who hosts a popular financial talk show called Money Monster. It’s a role that allows Clooney to crack wise, be dapper, dance and inhabit a guy with the emotional IQ of a 12-year-old. Julia Roberts is Patty Fenn, his longtime show runner. On this particular day, Lee has just started his show when Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) pretends to be a delivery guy, walks right into the studio and takes Lee hostage on live TV, using  a gun and two vests filled with explosives.

Let’s tap the brakes a moment. As somebody who’s been on quite a few television production sets, there’s absolutely no way Kyle gets into the studio as easily as he does here. It’s actually laughable, to the point I laughed out loud when he walked into the studio with such ease. In fact, the rendering of Kyle’s plans is so outrageous it was hard for me to suspend my disbelief.

Back to the story.  Kyle is angry because he made a terrible investment based on Lee’s advice, an investment that lost Kyle his life’s savings. Kyle’s interest isn’t in Lee alone: He also wants answers from Walt Camby (Dominic West), whose company lost 800 million dollars because, purportedly, of a glitch in an algorithm. Problem is, Camby’s nowhere to be found.

There’s a spray of clever dialogue here and there but for a movie that wants to impart insight into a “rigged” system, Money Monster is awfully simplistic and relies way too heavily on Clooney’s charm –and he certainly is charming! Here, however, that charm isn’t enough. Roberts’ Patty is intelligent and strong — she’s the hero of the movie, really, but the story is so unbelievable the role has little impact.

Jodie Foster is, generally, a fantastic director, but her direction here was too focused on Clooney and Roberts — and can you blame her? But she didn’t do enough to elicit empathy for Kyle’s plight, and did little to explain the changing dynamic between Kyle and Lee that shapes the story.

Two-and-a-half out of five stars.

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