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Mad Money (PG-13) **

Queen Latifah, Diane Keaton and Katie Holmes are the adorable crooks of 'Mad Money.'
Queen Latifah, Diane Keaton and Katie Holmes are the adorable crooks of 'Mad Money.'

If you’re going to make a heist picture, then at least have the decency to make the heist itself interesting. Otherwise, do like Tarantino did in Reservoir Dogs and just skip it altogether.

Then again, when your movie is as puny as Mad Money, cutting out the heist would leave you with a 30-minute short. Director Callie Khouri, who won an Oscar for writing the screenplay for Thelma and Louise, would probably tell you Mad Money is a feminist take on a traditionally male genre, which is partly true: I can’t think of another crime caper in which the thieves were all women and their husbands/boyfriends sat around and counted the loot.

But with characters this thinly written, the fact that Mad Money’s protagonists are women means absolutely nothing. The screenplay, by Glenn Gers (Fracture), deals exclusively in types: The pampered housewife (Diane Keaton) forced to get a job after her husband (Ted Danson) is downsized; the single mother (Queen Latifah) struggling to put her kids through school; the vivacious, kooky (yet smart!) young woman (Katie Holmes) who never turns off her iPod.

It is Keaton’s character who lands a job as a janitor in a Federal Reserve bank and convinces her two female co-workers to start skimming a little off the piles of worn-out money that are put through the shredder every day. Soon everyone is living high on the hog, and since the currency was destined to be destroyed, it’s not like they’re ”stealing” from anyone, right?

Mad Money spends some time exploring the concept of crime as a contagious disease and examining how quickly the once-unthinkable becomes second nature after you’ve gotten away with it. But there’s never really anything at stake in the film, since you know a comedy this bouncy, populated by characters this perky, can only end happily.

Keaton, Latifah and Holmes don’t so much form a trio here as share the screen together — you can’t imagine what these characters would ever have to talk about outside of their crime — but the actresses are all likable, and Khouri keeps the pace snappy. If only she could have come up with a more interesting way of robbing the bank, Mad Money might have been a little more tolerable.