Dumb Money Review: This Underdog Story is More Fun Than You’d Expect

Dumb Money photo

Based on the recent true story of the everyday people who put everything they had into Game Stop, Dumb Money is ultimately an endearing underdog tale. It’s fun to watch, though it misses the mark with some of its characters.

Dumb Money follows Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a market analyst who risks everything he owns over the Game Stop stock. Known as “Roaring Kitty” on social media, he shares his approach to investing with his followers.

When he decides to talk about a stock he’s particularly interested in, which he thinks Wall Street has bet against incorrectly, his followers start investing in it along with him.

It’s a David and Goliath story, with these everyday folks purchasing stock not only as a way to make money themselves but also to put up a fight against the rich. That element is what makes the story so endearing.

Dumb Money photo 2
Dumb Money, Sony Pictures

Keith is someone you want to root for right away. He’s a likable character, and his social media presence is very specific: a red headband, cat-themed shirts and backgrounds, and a calm, positive demeanor. This, of course, is all based on the real-life Keith Gill, whose social media presence matched that exactly.

What the film does well here is to characterize the real Keith Gill with authenticity, from the details to Paul Dano’s impeccable performance. You can’t help but want to see him win, and that’s not even considering his family circumstances.

These are also true to life. He’s married with a baby and living a modest life. They could use the extra money, and you get the sense that they’re good people who deserve it.

We also meet the rest of Keith’s family: his brother, Kevin, and his parents. And we learn about his sister’s recent death. Some liberties are apparently taken with the character of Kevin, which is unfortunate.

Dumb Money - Pete Davidson and Paul Dano

Pete Davidson plays this character just as you’d expect Pete Davidson to play any character, quite frankly, and that’s a misstep. Kevin is portrayed as more of a stoner type who steals food from DoorDash orders. It’s fun to watch, sure, but it’s unnecessary.

While we root for Keith the most in this story, we meet a few other characters who we also want to see succeed with the stock.

There’s Marcus, a Gamestop employee with no interest in pushing things like rewards cards onto video game shoppers; Harmony and Riri, two college students obsessed with following the stock; and Jennifer, a single mom and healthcare worker who could use a win.

Of those, it’s Jennifer who we care most about. Played by America Ferrera, she epitomizes a hard-working American who’s just doing her best to get by.

As the Gamestop stock continues to rise and her investment becomes worth more and more money, she’s the one you most want to sell — to get out while she can and pay off her mortgage.

Unfortunately, her character doesn’t get as much focus as she should. Jennifer’s story isn’t nearly as developed as it ought to be, and when it does dive a little deeper, it focuses on her lack of a love life more than anything else.

DUMB MONEY America Ferrera

What the film does do well with her, though, is to show healthcare work during lockdown. It does a good job of documenting lockdown altogether, from people wearing masks to the empty mall where GameStop stands alone, managing to be considered an essential business because of the computer accessories it sells.

Dumb Money accurately portrays what things were like in 2020, yet it doesn’t attempt to be a story about COVID-19. It focuses on the Gamestop story, portraying COVID and lockdown as subtle, realistic details. This is also part of what makes the story even more special, considering what a specific moment this was in time.

That’s true for the people on the other side of the story, too. Those details even make the Wall Street guys that much more unlikable. Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogan) is never seen wearing a mask, while the people who bring him meals at his place in Florida always do. His entire firm, in fact, is relocated to Florida to continue operations outside of lockdown.

What’s interesting about that character is that he’s not an outright villain. Seth Rogan’s performance shows the character’s vulnerability and makes him just a little bit likable, all things considered.

Dumb Money - Nick Offerman and Seth Rogan

As Keith and his followers gain massive amounts of money, Paul loses so much that he’s forced to ask for help from someone he’d rather not ask for it from.

It’s not so bad to see him lose in this case, especially as Keith earns so much. The reactions from his family make it that much more enjoyable, and more than anything, the viewer wants to see Keith come out on top.

You want that for Jennifer too, and even the Game Stop employee, who we don’t learn much about, aside from his ability to do a TikTok dance. Between him and the two college girls, it becomes less interesting to hope that they’ll win.

Part of this is because the characters aren’t fleshed out as much as they perhaps ought to be, and part of it is because of their hero worship.

At a certain point, it feels awkward to see how Harmony and Riri become obsessed with Roaring Kitty. It feels like the least authentic part of the film.

Another misstep Dumb Money makes is to offer a crass tone that leans too far into shock value. Speaking of the two college girls, it’s over the top for Riri to scream, “Where my p*ssy at?” when they don’t have a way to see if Keith is holding or selling. The film also leans too hard on using certain derogatory terms when discussing the Reddit users on Wall Street Bets.

Using it once would be enough to be accurate. You could say the same about the various social media videos that are incorporated as well. The film goes too far for the sake of shock value or seeming edgy or funny, and it offsets what makes the film so good: the endearing underdog story.

That’s not to say some of those moments aren’t important or funny. And, of course, the film also uses real footage to present the congressional hearing, which turns out to be one of the most satisfying moments of the entire film. (The footage from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is particularly enjoyable.)

Keith’s testimony encapsulates the entire film, making it a true feel-good movie. Once again, Paul Dano’s performance makes it impossible not to root for Keith Gill, and that’s true even in the smallest details.

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Dumb Money is currently playing in theaters.

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Preview: Watch the Trailer for ‘Dumb Money’

Ashley is the Editor-in-Chief of Eulalie Magazine. Favorite Movies: Sunset Boulevard, Garden State, Modern Times. Favorite TV Shows: Gilmore Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grey's Anatomy. Favorite Books: Interview with the Vampire, Dracula, City of Glass.

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