Unfunny Identity Thief an Unfathomable Travesty
I’m sure I’ll see a worse movie in 2013 than Identity Thief (I didn’t see Movie 43, so that’s out), but right now I have a hard time believing I’m going to see one that makes me near as angry. Why? Because there’s no reason, none at all, that this rather harmless comedy should be as bad as it is. The two stars, Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, appear like they could have some decent chemistry, while the scenario, if not original, still should generate some decent comedic mileage. At the very minimum this should have been passable entertainment fit for late night Cable TV consumption, and that’s assuming no one involved did more than go through the motions and put forth the bare minimum of efforts.
And yet, Identity Thief is such a colossal waste of time and talent the end result is flabbergasting. Devoid of virtually all laughs, tedious at best, offensive at worst and tiresome right from the start, the movie is such a misbegotten disaster it’s hard to fathom what could have happened. The scrip by Craig Mazin (The Hangover Part II), based on a story he co-wrote with newcomer Jerry Eeten, while heavily inspired by Midnight Run (meaning it steals from it liberally) is a mess, director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) never finding a decent groove to ground things in making the watching of the comedy impossible.
The basic plot revolves around Colorado financial accounts expert Sandy Patterson (Bateman), a relatively boring family man, who has his life thrown into disaster when a mysterious Floridian steals his identity and proceeds to milk his excellent credit rating for everything it’s worth. Given a week by his employer to bring them back to face the authorities or otherwise lose his job, Sandy travels across the country and runs smack-dab into the face of Diana (McCarthy), the woman responsible for the ruination of his life. He convinces her to come with him promising he won’t press charges just as long as she admits to his boss what she’s done, the pair forced to proceed on an impromptu road trip after her lack of a real identity keeps them from flying.
Hilarity is supposed to ensue, especially considering the duo is being chased both by a Florida skiptracer (Robert Patrick) hired to bring her back to lockup, as well as a pair of ruthless hitmen (Genesis Rodriguez, Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris) charged with making sure Diana sees the lethal end of a bullet. But nothing that happens is funny. Ever. Not once. Not for a single second. Instead it’s a rather excruciating chore to sit through, attempting to sit through it all the way to the end a mind-numbing challenge I’d not wish on anyone.
This didn’t have to be the case. The setup, while isn’t a bad one, while the seeds for a great comedy are unquestionably all in place. Had the script not been so insistent on beating the audience over the head with its gags and jokes, had everything not been so blatantly telegraphed, had there been anything close to subtlety employed at any single solitary moment, I doubt my dander would be nearly as inflamed as it presently is.
Instead, Mazin is so intent on shoving as much into the face of the viewer as he can that one almost chokes on the force-feeding, while at the same time Gordon seems to have no idea how to deal with all this idiocy, trying his best to mask the film’s numerous shortcoming with quick edits, obvious music queues and pointless montages. Bateman and McCarthy aren’t left well enough alone to do what they do and as such the pair are forced into going far more over the top than they’d likely otherwise have gone, their respective performances as grating as nails screeching down a well-worn chalkboard.
I could dissect things more fully, talk about the horrifically homophobic and transphobic nature of much of the comedy or the way it revels in making fun of people for their cultural differences than it does anything else. We could go into how it slights its secondary female characters to such an extent they might as well not even be in the movie at all (I don’t know whom I feel worse for on that account, a distastefully utilized Rodriguez or an embarrassingly bored looking Amanda Peet) or how the subplots involving Sandy and Diana’s pursuers goes nowhere. But none of that matters because of just how bad, how close to unwatchable Identity Thief is, part of me wishing someone else had stolen my identity so I wouldn’t have had to endure this travesty in the first place.
Film Rating: 1 (out of 4)