Identity Thief is a boring, boring movie

identify thief

‘Identify Thief” commits the cardinal sin of comedies – it just ain’t funny. Oh, but don’t worry – there’s more.

 

It’s an interesting world we live in, with modern conveniences and dangers alike. We can use credit cards nearly anywhere in the country, and when we can’t, cash still works. It’s easy to apply for as many credit cards as our credit allows — but it’s easy for someone to take advantage of the naive and gullible. Sometimes you might think “why can’t the real jerks get taken down?” — those titans of industry that screw up and get bailed out — and then you realize “oh, because that would be too satisfying.” Instead, decent and relatively normal people are the victims because the script can’t be as daring as it so desperately wants to be.

Identify Thief, from director Seth Gordon (of Horrible Bosses), takes a legitimately awful thing that happens to people and makes a bad movie out of it. Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) is an important, if not fancy, cog in the machine of a financial company in Denver. He gets the chance to leave his company and awful boss (Jon Favreau, making a welcome but very brief appearance) to work with others (led by John Cho) tired of not getting recognition. I bet Sandy’s beautiful wife (Amanda Peet) and ridiculously adorable children (real life sisters Mary-Charles and Maggie Elizabeth Jones) are pleased as punch that they don’t have to scrape for every dime any more! You see, the movie goes out of its way to present this setup — a very decent, if mildly ambitious and talented family man that finally gets a break. So when Sandy’s identity is stolen by Diana (Melissa McCarthy) because Sandy is just too gullible (sadly plausible), you can really despise Diana.

Sure hope she gets her just desserts for that!

Unfortunately, Identity Thief doesn’t know what it wants to be – it fails as a dark comedy and a slapstick romp.

But because of plot contrivances and lack of sense, Sandy must physically go to Florida and bring Diana back to Denver if he wants to clear up the problem. Yeah, that’s … well, it’s stupid. But you could forgive that, and any other plot holes if the movie was funny. Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t know what it wants to be — it fails as a dark comedy and a slapstick romp. And the attempts at pathos and emotion just don’t work. When the movie attempts to paint Diana as anything but the clear sociopath she is, it falls flat. Despite Melissa McCarthy’s best efforts, her tears just seem out of place. Bringing in more and more wacky characters, like drug dealers, a bounty hunter (Robert Patrick, who is one of the only consistently funny performers), and … I don’t even want to get into the bizarre interlude with Eric Stonestreet as a depressed cowboy … these only serve to make the movie muddled and cartoonish.

The plot is paper thin and cliched, and the jokes aren’t funny enough to save it.

When Bugs Bunny hits Elmer Fudd with an anvil, we may laugh — but don’t ask us to take a tragic backstory about Elmer’s struggle with stuttering seriously. I put the blame for this movie’s failures primarily on the script. The acting in the movie is not bad — everyone is doing their best, and you can tell. But the plot is paper thin and cliched, and the jokes aren’t funny enough to save it. And I’m sick of a joke consisting of a fat lady filmed in slow-motion while a rap song is playing. We get, she’s fat and uncool!

Too bad — there was potential in these characters for a real dark comedy. That’s the movie it should’ve been, not this tonally inconsistent mess.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

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