Monday, May 27, 2013

Identity Thief - 2013

"Identity Thief" - 2013
Dir. by Seth Gordon - 1 hr. 51 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Here's the upshot of "Identity Thief": this film is exactly what you think it's going to be, based on the trailer.  That's good and bad.  Good, because the premise and casting work.  Bad, because surprises are nice in comedies.  But also, there's nothing about "Identity Thief" that suggests it's going to be anything more than a pleasant, forgettable comedy that you should probably pay about three dollars to see.

Sandy (Jason Batetman) is basically a corporate accountant, one who is good at what he does, and yet still has to deal with a crappy boss (played by Jon Favreau).  He plays by the rules, but falls victim to an identity thief, who gets his sensitive private data during a fraudulent phone call.  The thief, Diana (Melissa McCarthy), immediately goes on a rampage, getting arrested and racking up huge credit card bills all over her hometown in Florida.  Eventually, the police go after Sandy, who is in Denver, but the police don't show much initiative about resolving the theft, which threatens Sandy's job and comfortable life.  Sandy comes up with a solution: he's going to Florida to bring the thief to justice.  This yields a long road trip with an uncooperative passenger, with some criminal types hot on their heels.

The plot unfolds exactly as it's set up to: odd couple road trip, they end up on better terms, the baddie develops a heart, happily ever after.  The other bad guys are supposed to be menacing, but they're in a comedy, so they're more like speed bumps than actual threats.  Even in a R-rated movie (which seems to be only on the basis of a few too many f-bombs), you know that there's next to no chance that thing are going to end badly.  The result is that I ended up waiting for the scenes where Diana and Sandy would torment each other, and the rest didn't matter much.

There are funny parts here, but the best material is based on watching Diana be her manipulative self.  She spends a lot of time doing that at Sandy's expense, which works, because Jason Bateman is very good at reacting to what's going on.  I wish there were more of that in this film: the other elements (criminals and skip tracers, namely) felt like an excuse to get to the meat of the story.  But those elements don't work well on their own merits, and I wish the story had just dispensed with them, put the bare minimum explanation for why the road trip needed to happen forward, and then doubled down on the interactions between McCarthy and Bateman.  The alternative would have been to beef up those parts, really earn the R-rating, and watch the crap roll downhill.

I don't think it's fair to expect genius out of "Identity Thief."  Instead, it's the kind of forgettable, yet enjoyable film that careers are made of.  If you went down Walter Matthau's filmography, they're not all "The Odd Couple."  Sometimes, you've got to just keep working to keep your skills sharp until something comes along that an actor can really sink their teeth into.  That's reasonable, and I certainly enjoyed myself for the couple of hours this took, but "Identity Thief" is not something I could imagine ever having a burning desire to re-watch.

2 / 5 - Theatre

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