Film Review: Identity Thief
Jason Bateman’s recent career resurgence hasn’t been without its fair share of missteps. Since Arrested Development, some of his films like Horrible Bosses or Couples Retreat have done well while others like The Switch and The Change-Up have failed to impress critics or audiences. Recent hot commodity Melissa McCarthy on the other hand has come a long way in a short time since being Lauren Graham’s BFF on Gilmore Girls. Her breakout role as the crass puppy hoarding horndog Megan in 2011’s Bridesmaids has secured her a seemingly endless amount of work merely tweaking that same role over and over again. Now they’re about to square off in Seth Gordon’s follow-up to Horrible Bosses.
Sandy’s (Jason Bateman) credit rating is ruined, his job is in jeopardy, and he’s arrested for skipping his court date for assault in Florida. The only problem is that Sandy is completely innocent; his identity was stolen by Diana, a lonely con artist living off the fortunes of others. With the authorities offering little help in clearing his name, a baby on the way, and his job on the line, Sandy must take matters into his own hands and bring his identity thief to justice all on his own. Unfortunately for Sandy, Diana has other plans.
Identity Thief is a bit of a mixed bag; there are sections of the film that are very funny, bordering on hilarious, but the film as a whole has a lot of problems. It’s rife with inconsistencies, plot holes, and half thought out storylines and characters that hinder the performances of the main stars.
Right off the bat, the film’s main premise is somewhat preposterous; with identity theft being such a common problem I doubt any law enforcement agency, financial institution, or employer would require a victim of fraud to bring in the suspect themselves to clear them of any wrong doing. Even if you’re able to look past the absurdity of the premise, things get even stranger with the introduction of two criminals pursuing Diana and then an unrelated bounty hunter joins the mix as well. These two subplots add some action to a storyline that’s already familiar to anyone that has seen Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Due Date, or last year’s The Guilt Trip, but they do little to enhance the film, its humor, or it’s pacing.
Identity Thief runs a little long for its own good, clocking in at a hour and forty-two minutes, which is about fifteen minutes too long. For the most part it avoids the predictable point in almost every “Odd-Couple” comedy where the two characters have an emotionally fueled fight that threatens to end their relationship forever. Instead, we’re treated to a simmering conversation and then we’re thrown back into the fire for another oddly placed action piece, followed by a montage, and then surprise ending that will undoubtedly surprise no one. The third act is contrived and drags on for an unforgivable amount of time until the screenwriters throw in one more head scratcher that is so ludicrous it’s dumbfounding.
If you look at Identity Thief in small doses, it can be a lot of fun. It’s when it’s fully assembled that the whole picture becomes a mess. Bateman and McCarthy have good chemistry in a Laurel & Hardy kind of way. Even though McCarthy seems stuck in rut playing essentially the same role over and over again, she’s still enjoyable to watch and isn’t afraid to be the butt of many of the film’s jokes. Likewise, Bateman has mastered the ‘slow burn’ stare and deadpan delivery to the point where he’s almost unstoppable when given an appropriate target for his hostilities. The stars are not the problem here… it’s the script that lets them down.
Identity Thief is a disappointing follow-up to Seth Gordon’s Horrible Bosses. He’s got the right comedic sensibilities and had a good cast at his disposal with this film, but the screenplay made it an uphill battle to enjoy watching it. If you’re a huge Bateman or McCarthy fan you’re going to find something to like about it, but overall it’s a disjointed disappointment.