Identity Thief: Five Reasons Not to See this Movie

by Rachel Stein February 8, 2013 12:51 pm
<i>Identity Thief</i>: Five Reasons Not to See this Movie

I find few things more frustrating than wasted potential and director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) has such a mess on his hands with Identity Thief, despite committed leads Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, that Wasted Potential may as well be the alternate title for this movie. Even the premise seems straightforward enough of a vehicle to get us to the raunchy jokes and slapstick humor we're to expect of this kind of comedy -- a mild-mannered Colorado-based businessman, Sandy Patterson (Bateman), travels to Florida to confront Diana (McCarthy), the psychotic woman who has stolen his identity and maxed out his credit card -- but the set-up is held back with so many inconsistencies that asking us to suspend disbelief for the first 30 minutes of the film (and intervals of ten minutes throughout) in order to get Bateman and McCarthy on a cross-country road trip that serves as an inward journey for them both is too much to bear.

That said, there are about 40 minutes of this 110-minute film worth watching, but for the following reasons, I'd suggest waiting for its post-theatrical afterlife so that you can fast-forward through to the Sandy/Diana scenes, guest star cameos (Eric Stonestreet in particular is pretty fun) and maybe the last 20 minutes of the surprisingly somewhat resolved ending:

The Name Game
Not sure if you knew this, but Sandy is commonly thought of as a girl's name, despite the fact that it's used across genders. Now, imagine this joke and conversation used every half hour in order to infuriate and emasculate Bateman's character, and there you have most of Identity Thief.

Horrible Plotholes
In the universe in which this movie is set, neither the police nor large nationwide banks have the ability to stop identity theft, cancel a credit card or arrest people for mostly anything. And forget about anyone witnessing a crime, either, lest Diana, Sandy or the criminal bounty hunters chasing after them (oh yeah, that happens) get caught for any of the very public chaos they create. There's a lot more where that came from, but I'll spare both of us a list of every inconsistency.

Lazy Archetypes
Much as I really don't want to acknowledge the shoehorned storyline about a bunch of dangerous criminals in pursuit of Diana, they are such a terrible, terrible part of Identity Thief, clearly only existing in the movie to make someone besides Diana the real enemy -- and, surprise surprise, the bad guys just happen to be a black man (played by T.I.), a Latina woman (Genesis Rodriguez), a blue-collared tattooed gentleman (Robert Patrick) and, for reasons that I'm assuming are monetarily relevant, Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks. Amanda Peet plays essentially the same role Katie Holmes played in Jack and Jill: the loving wife who never questions anything the husband does, and instead embraces him during his obviously awful life choices because she's so supportive and a stale piece of bread, personified.

Fat Jokes
I've already made my peace with how much I hated the way McCarthy's character was treated in Bridesmaids; disgusting because she had the audacity to be fat and a sexual being. There's more of the same here, especially in a scene where McCarthy's character is stripped of her colorful looks and given a "tasteful" makeunder where the audience is finally supposed to see her as "not disgusting" and maybe "worthy of human love" -- though, of course not by Sandy as he is an infallible man who is just trying to do the right thing. Frankly, Identity Thief would be a much more interesting film if the writers replaced the cartoonish chase element with a possible romance between the leads, but because McCarthy is heavy-set and not, say, Jennifer Aniston or Sandra Bullock, the very idea of that is a non-starter.

Bridesmaids and Arrested Development
Let's say you did like Bridesmaids and in general you're a fan of McCarthy, or are a huge Arrested Development file and will give anything Bateman is in a chance: I'd say to re-watch those things instead. You'll save yourself a few bucks and a long sequence involving a CGI snake.

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