Bridget and her husband Don (Diane Keaton and Ted Danson) were living the good life in suburban Kansas City until his executive job got downsized and, within a year, they racked up over $250,000 in debt. Don thinks they ought to sell their house, a sprawling mini-mansion, but Bridget won't hear of it. She'll get a job, she says, preferably one “with benefits.” Possessing absolutely no marketable skills (she majored in comparative lit), Bridget winds up working as a janitor at the Federal Reserve Bank—which, she learns, is where old, worn-out money goes to get shredded and disposed of, so that new money can come into circulation.
This is where Mad Money—and its screwball heroine—come to life. Cash-deprived Bridget nearly drools in longing the first time she sees the shredding machine in operation. All that money just going to waste! And if it were to disappear, who'd miss it? Of course, because of the tightest security procedures known to man—or woman—it's impossible to steal from a Federal Reserve Bank. Or is it? One day while shopping in a hardware store, Bridget is struck by a deceptively simple but possibly workable idea involving duplicate padlocks and a three-step plan to grab and stash the soon-to-be-shredded moolah. She can't carry out this scheme alone, however; she'll need a couple of cohorts.
One of Bridget's more troubling ideas is that “crime is contagious,” and she certainly proves it by quickly winning over two co-workers Nina (Queen Latifah), who operates the shredding machine, and Jackie (Katie Holmes), who transports carts full of cash into the shredding room. Of this mismatched trio, Nina (a single mom with two kids to think about) remains the grounded, cautious one, while Jackie is an unpredictable ditz and Bridget—being a lot like the Diane Keaton we've come to know and love—combines both traits and adds some inimitable quirks of her own.
Although Mad Money has a few would-be suspenseful moments, there's never a doubt the big heist will succeed—even if it must be done in increments. (The girls can't walk out of the Fed padded with more than a few hundred thousand dollars at a time.) While celebrating their first haul—girlishly jumping up and down and tossing greenbacks at each other—Bridget's husband walks in and they're obliged to fess up. After ranting on about what an insane, not to mention highly illegal, idea this is, he too reluctantly succumbs to crime fever. Although Ted Danson's role is a small one, he gets some of the best lines—along with Adam Rothenberg, who plays the gung-ho but thick-as-a-brick Bob, husband to ditzy Jackie.
Completing the crime contagion, one of the bank guards (Roger Cross) falls for Nina, as well as for the robbery scheme, and he begins to strategize with the rest of the gang: How much money can they spend without attracting attention? How do they explain their new buying power? And, bottom line, how long can they rip off the Fed with no one noticing? Well, as it turns out, someone does notice. Can clever Bridget save the day anyway?
Despite its relatively lame concept—this is just another crime caper, after all—Mad Money proves both fresh and funny and, in an odd way, uplifting in its moral ambiguity. Obviously, director Calle Khori (Thelma & Louise, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) knows a thing or two about female friendship and how much fun it can be—even when the friendship in question involves such a disparate trio, and even when it's forged through, well, something as dumb as robbing a bank. Women! What'll they do next—try to be President?