"Identity Thief" -- movie review
Release date: Feb. 8, 2013
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Written by: Craig Mazin
How do you know when a movie is really bad? Sometimes you can see it from the time pre-production begins -- the story, the cast, the filmmaking team just don't seem to fit. Others the right cast and team can just misfire. Too often, studio executives in Hollywood think that you can take a proven director, a reliable leading man and the popular up and coming actress and generate a hit no matter how good the script is. "Identity Thief" is the perfect example of such a movie -- good director, great comic leads but a terribly executed idea.
So stay with me on this, at least for the first few paragraphs. Then you can make up your mind as to how much you want to know. In "Identity Thief", Jason Bateman plays literally every character he's ever played. You know, the guy that wears a suit and makes dry, passive aggressive comments? This time around his character's name is Sandy Patterson, a pretty average sucker saddled with a generally female oriented name. Early on, Sandy falls for a phone scam in which a scammer, played by Melissa McCarthy, is able to steal his social security number and run up some debt under the name Sandy Patterson.
Well, soon debt collectors some calling for male Sandy Patterson. Female Sandy-scammer, in addition to the debt she has run up, has amassed a few warrants for some law entanglements she gets herself in to. Word of all of this debauchery gets back to male Sandy's boss (John Cho) and he nearly loses his job. The police won't help (because the crimes were committed in another state) but it is suggested that male Sandy that he should take it upon himself to drag this woman to Colorado, from Florida, and trick her into confessing. This is the actual plot of the movie.
It gets increasingly more ridiculous from that point on. In between getting throat punched by girl Sandy, male Sandy convinces her to come back to Colorado to help clear his name. Along the way the movie attempts to morph into a buddy-road trip movie, conjuring up memories of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and "Midnight Run", but it never comes close to those classics. Instead is quickly spirals into a movie that is jam packed with character doing things that that are so stupid that the only way to justify them is to have have them happen in a Hollywood screenplay. When every character is an idiot, it isn't fun.
Director Seth Gordon ("Horrible Bosses") is usually much better at handling an balance between physical comedy and intellectual comedy but it's all down hill from the opening titles this time around. The problem is that the characters are all so stupid it is impossible to care how anything plays out. Then there are the characters that are just thrown in for no reason, like the two thugs (rapper T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez) who are also giving chase but their intentions besides tracking down female Sandy because she owes money.
Like I said before, the character Bateman plays is barely differentiated from "Arrested Development" or "The Switch" or "Horrible Bosses" (also with director, Gordon). He's enjoyable but it's all too familiar. His job though, is easy -- play the straight man to Melissa McCarthy's bombastic and zany character. McCarthy is a bold and genuinely talented comic actress but her shtick is bound to wear out quickly, especially if she keeps using poorly written, clichéd comedies like this one. Here she resorts to the typical fat actor humor, getting hit in the head, being loud, throat punching. It's amusing the first time around, but the same jokes for nearly two hours gets old quick.
"Identity Thief" is a nonsensical, dumbed down comedy from a director and actor who have all been better in better movies. Yeah, sure, this is going to generate a few laughs out of audiences looking for an escape, but the complete idiocy you'll have to endure those rare laughs isn't worth the effort.
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