Zach Galifianakis' 'Masterminds' Trailer Gives An Interesting Insight Into The State of Modern Comedy

The sense of humor advertised by the trailer of the upcoming heist comedy Masterminds can be summed up in one word: Galifianakian. Throughout the minute-and-a-half-long video, we see its bearded star seize control of the tone with his oddball gentility, used per tradition in contrast with the wild chaos his characters always seem to get themselves into. This embrace of Zach Galifianakis’ ideology is no shocker in its own right, as the late 2000s comedy kingpin seems to drape his very specific tenor around every project he headlines. But we very nearly got another type of humor with Masterminds.

Back when it was known as Loomis Fargo, the production had a different star playing the central role, a simpleton who takes charge of an elaborate bank heist, only to be double-crossed by the likewise idiotic brutes he hires to assist him in the robbery: Jim Carrey.

Carrey supposedly left Loomis Fargo, now Masterminds, due to a conflicting obligation — likely Dumb and Dumber To, which is the only Carrey-led movie to have been filmed in the overlapping period. But with Galifianakis’ sensibilities on display with such vivacity in the trailer, it seems tough to picture a Masterminds that would have accommodated the much different style embodied by Carrey.

Galifianakis is very much a product and purveyor of the late 2000s’ take on comedy. His delivery is subdued, his dialogue articulate, and his general source of fun an array of small-scale sins. Capitalizing on the newfound celebration of subtlety set forth by the likes of Tina Fey and the Judd Apatow team, a Hangover-era Galifianakis brought his weirdo shtick to unlikely glory, riding high on the gambit ever since.

While Galifianakis has not had a tough time finding work since striking it big in 2009, Masterminds seems like a project that is particularly conducive to his style. The team includes director Jared Hess, who tampered with a similar vein of quirk in his breakout Napoleon Dynamite, and writers including Danny McBride and Jody Hill (Eastbound & Down and Observe and Report). The film in question seems to have set out from the get-go to head off with a character who speaks softly but carries a big stick of crazy.

That’s why it’s so strange to picture a timeline in which Carrey stuck it out on the bank robbery comedy. Carrey is an icon of a separate time: the 1990s, when comedy was big, broad, loud, and physical. And he was the master of the trade.

Carrey’s vocalizations were rarely subtle, though packed with as mindful an execution as anything Galifianakis has since showcased. He favored exclamations to wordplay and full-body thrusts to stumblings and stammerings. His anatomical and facial contortions could be seen from miles away. He was a different kind of comedian, and one whose craft has all but lost its esteem since its heyday.

Today, wide comedies like Masterminds favor the Galifianakis execution, opting for quotable quirk rather than the unique dynamism perfected by Carrey. Perhaps modern audiences look at something like a Galifianakis joke, laden with bizarre tangents and funny phrasings, and consider it a more sophisticated alternative to the raucous rantings of a ’90s man like Carrey. But it should say something about the sophistication of a performer’s sensibilities if he’s inimitable enough to claim an entire breed of physical and vocal manipulation as his own.

Funnily enough, we’ve already seen Carrey take on heist flicks of one variety or another: the halfhearted but palatable Fun with Dick and Jane, and the outstanding but little-seen I Love You Phillip Morris. The genre seems perfectly suited for a man who can go as big and explosive at he, even in his early 50s, can do better than most. Still, Hollywood seems to think the world may prefer a Masterminds, and it may be right. But the rest of us can hold out for a Loomis Fargo brought to life down the road.

Comedy Central on YouTube

Images: Relativity Media (2); Columbia Pictures