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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Identity Thief, starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, is not a good movie. However, it is not a bad one either. It is an incredibly average one. Bateman and McCarthy really give it their all, but nothing quite comes together in the end, and the two comedic actors just cannot rise above the material.
The major problem with Identity Thief is that it tries too hard and never quite knows what it really wants to be. The trailer highlighted a lot of the slapstick, but if people were going in preparing to see multiple pratfalls and our two leads beating the hell out of each other, they are in a world of disappointment. Is it slapstick? Is it a buddy film? Is it a gross-out comedy? A road-trip film? It tries to be all of these things, and the movie feels disjointed because of it.
One of the major issues I had with the movie is the central conceit of the film. In it we learn the McCarthy has stolen Bateman’s identity and starts running up charges in his name. Naturally, collection agencies, the cops, and others come looking for him. Bateman, of course, is clueless, but everyone refuses to listen to him (let alone letting him get a word in edgewise). I refuse to believe in a world where identity theft is an all-too-common occurrence that the police would not bother to look if Bateman is telling the truth. Not helping matters is that Bateman acts as if he is completely helpless. Since all the fake credit cards are in his name, cannot he just cancel them all and report them as fraud to the credit companies? The movie acts as if this is not an option.
I know I am being nitpicky. Without any of this happening, there would not be a movie. However, I generally have a rule: if movie logic cannot trump common sense logic, then the movie’s premise fails. That is the case with Identity Thief.
But that is far from the flick’s only problem. There are several subplots which quickly go nowhere. Apparently McCarthy is being chased by a bounty hunter (wonderfully played by Robert Patrick) and two hitmen. These storylines wrap up anti-climatically and is forgotten about by the time we get to the third act. It makes me wonder what the point of it was.
Also hurting the movie is that the pace is so incredibly slow. This is surprising as Seth Gordon generally has proven himself as a capable comedy director with 2011’s hilarious Horrible Bosses (also starring Jason Bateman). While the narrative might not have been all that great, I would have at least expected the film to not feel like such a drag.
The film was also very mean-spirited. I do not mind dark or twisted humor, but Identity Thief just got too nasty for its own good. It was amusing at first, but the film just continues with it to the point that it is really hard to have any sympathy for these characters.
To the film’s credit, Bateman and McCarthy play off each other wonderfully and have a great chemistry. I would not mind seeing them team-up again down the line in a, hopefully, better movie.
I honestly cannot recommend Identity Thief. There was so much potential here, but it does not work in the end. The movie is slow and utterly predictable (honestly – you can figure out exactly what was going to happen after the first fifteen minutes). There are some funny moments, but just wait for the Redbox.