‘Identity Thief’ – Movie Review.

4 Apr

Identity Thief posterIdentity Thief is nothing if not abrupt: Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman), a Denver businessman, picks up the phone and is shocked to discover that his identity was almost thieved earlier that day. However, the lady on the line turns out to be Melissa McCarthy’s character (who goes by a plethora of pseudonyms; she’s listed on Rotten Tomatoes as ‘Diana’, so we’ll roll with that), who swiftly uses the bank details she just obtained to enact war on Patterson’s credit level. Masquerading as Sandy Bateman herself, her trip to the salon not only leads the real Patterson to find her and drag her to Colorado to face charges, but also some nefarious henchmen who want her head on a pike.

This is a strange case in that, while I kind of liked the movie, I simply can’t recommend it on any level. It is a ham-fisted attempt at taking every rom-com and road trip movie of the last ten years, and mashing them together; the pulp that results is an unfunny, badly-made yet strangely amiable puddle of goo that would have been better left unmade. Following the recent trend of throwing likeable actors into funny situations yet somehow remaining unfunny (Burt Wonderstone, Admission), this movie is irreparably flawed as a comedy, but manages to function as an entertaining evening at the cinema.

This is virtually entirely down to Melissa McCarthy, whose petite stature defies nature and towers above the much taller heads of all her co-stars; she carries this film in a manner similar to Atlas’ holding up of the heavens. Not only is she the sole provider of any humour whatsoever (“your beard smells like sandwiches” made me snort) but she is literally the one character possessing even close to three dimensions; real Sandy (Bateman) is the most insipidly dull vanilla hero, while every other face is just an under-developed plot significance. That said, it’s great to see the brilliantly-named Morris Chestnut again; he was my favourite part of cancelled TV series V.

Excluding the Bridesmaids vet, nothing else in this film works. The entire plot rests on the inability of the Denver police department to cooperate with out-of-state counterparts, and while I’m no expert on American criminal law (I skipped that class) I’m fairly certain that they’d be able to offer more help than ‘bring her here so we can trick her into confessing’. It all just seems so arbitrary; an unrealistically elaborate attempt at solving a crime for which they have reams of evidence to use in pursuit. I didn’t buy for one second that Denver couldn’t just give Florida a buzz, let them know who the perp is, and cuff her within hours.

McCarthy makes this movie watchable as the lovable vagabond.

McCarthy makes this movie watchable as the lovable vagabond.

With the inadequacy of the cops comes the inexplicableness of the villains. McCarthy’s antagonism slows transcends that particular label as a Platonic relationship develops between Diana and Sandy. However, a duo of minorities are chasing the pair, along with an older hitman-type guy, and all three baddies collectively take orders from some jailbird who remains nameless. Why they hate each other and why they’re after Diana is never fully explained, though their morphing into comic relief characters near their (incredibly stupid) end comes both out of nowhere, and much too late.

The pacing is noticeably uneven and really adds another layer of terrible to the movie. At 111 minutes, Identity Thief is already a bit gratuitous, but the last twenty minutes are so panicked and hasty that it’s clear director Seth Gordon could have kept the train rolling for a while longer. Everything leading up to that last half hour takes things so slow that it’s a very jarring shift in tempo; it’s as if the movie downed a can of Red Bull and couldn’t contain its hyperactivity. You know in dramatic hospital situations, when the heartbeat monitor spikes and everyone cheers? This is almost like that, except that nobody is cheering.

The plot makes no sense, the characters are wafer-thin and lacks the best sense of pacing; sounds like I hate this film, right? I’d really like to say so, but I just can’t… I had fun! I am totally part of Team Melissa McCarthy now – after Bridesmaids, Gilmore Girls and this performance, she has definitely gone up on my list. Laughs are scarce, the ending is hokey and nothing happens for any good reason, but Identity Thief is a nice movie which makes for a pleasant afternoon’s viewing, one which I simply cannot recommend at all.

Simon says: a case of mistaken identity – this goose is convinced it’s a graceful swan.

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