“Identity Thief”: Jason Bateman stars as a mild-mannered Colorado financial analyst who has his identity stolen by a gregarious Floridian scam artist played by Melissa McCarthy. The funny part of film’s identity theft scenario is if Bateman is able bring to his imposter to his home state and confess her crime, he can get his life back. So the movie is really a “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” style road trip buddy comedy. Aside from the premise of the film not making a lick of sense (kidnapping is more serious crime than identity theft, right?), I can’t help but feel that this movie is a waste of its leads. Bateman has mastered the sardonic, put-upon leading man and McCarthy was hilarious as a voracious wild woman in “Bridesmaids” but what does this film have to offer that we haven’t seen before? Also doesn’t this film have the exact same plot contrivance as 1988’s “Midnight Run”? There really wasn’t a better idea banging around the studio than having comically mismatched the leads go on a forced road trip? And why not invert expectations by having Bateman (who can pull off the smarminess) play the conniving thief and McCarthy (who plays a regular person on “Mike & Molly” weekly) play the hapless professional? Greatest hits albums are the worst. Also starring Amanda Peet, Jon Favreau, and T.I.
Fun fact: The film is directed by Horrible Bosses helmer Seth Gordon.
“Side Effects”: Steven Soderbergh’s last film before a hiatus of indeterminate length follows an anxiety ridden young woman (Rooney Mara) who is prescribed a new mood enhancing drug by her psychiatrist (Jude Law) to unexpected and tragic results. If, for whatever reason, “Side Effects” ends up being Soderbergh’s last theatrical film it’ll be kind of perfect. Soderbergh has spent the last few years making meticulously crafted genre pieces like “Magic Mike”, “Haywire”, and “Contagion” that feel like a post-script to a career that started with deeply person independent productions (“Sex, Lies, and Videotape”, “Schizopolis”), followed by a mainstream period that brought massive critical and financial success (“Out of Sight”, “Ocean’s Eleven”), and a third act that mixed ambitious personal projects with surprisingly complex studio pictures (“Solaris”, “The Informant!”).
That’s not to say that I’m happy that Soderbergh is “retiring.” He’s one of the few modern masters still producing interesting, vital work and his feeling displaced in the modern superheroes and airport novel suffused marketplace have some validity. While Soderbergh could probably keep making low profile genre variations for another decade without much difficultly, he’s never been the kind of filmmaker to stick to one mode for too long. As opposed to contemporaries like Tarantino and Fincher, Soderbergh has evolved his style while never moving away from his core aesthetic. A ‘90s Soderbergh film doesn’t look like a ‘00s Soderbergh film which doesn’t look like a ‘10s Soderbergh film but they would all undeniably be of a piece. But after winning an Academy Award, getting a studio to pay for his post-divorce cinematic therapy, and making a four and a half hour Che Guevara bio pic, there are few mountains left for Soderbergh to climb. Hopefully he’ll find a story he needs to tell again someday. Also starring Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Vanessa Shaw.
Fun fact: Justin Timberlake was almost cast in Tatum’s role.
Mario McKellop has written about film on Examiner for the last three years and can be reached directly at email@example.com