Mark Reviews Movies

Identity Thief


1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Seth Gordon

Cast: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, Genesis Rodriguez, Tip "T.I." Harris, Robert Patrick, Morris Chestnut, John Cho, Eric Stonestreet, Jon Favreau

MPAA Rating: R (for sexual content and language)

Running Time: 1:51

Release Date: 2/8/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | February 7, 2013

The plot of a comedy needn't be airtight, but the premise of Identity Thief strains credulity to the point that we're left shaking our heads in disbelief at the incompetence of the central characters, the stupidity of ancillary characters, and the beleaguered contrivances that set the plot in motion. That's only the first act.

What follows is a series of painfully inept gags and plot devices that are even more embarrassing than the movie's setup. There's a feeling of desperation to Craig Mazin's script, which has to force together two people who would, in reality, never wind up this close and then, with them together, has no idea what to do with them. In order for the ploy to play out, Mazin forcibly inserts two external antagonists into the mix—as if the conflict between a man whose identity is stolen and the woman who stole it isn't enough—and loads a completely unsympathetic character with an uncharacteristic and unconvincing sob story.

It's a shift that possibly could have worked if not for the fact that Mazin spends the majority of the movie making Diana (Melissa McCarthy) as off-putting as possible. This is a woman who makes a living duping people into giving her personal information under false pretenses, creates fake identification and credit cards in those people's names, and wrecks their lives so that she can maintain a comfortable lifestyle full of meaningless stuff. She also has a penchant for punching people in the throat. It's never funny, yet she does it often. The movie has a habit of that.

Her victim—of both identity theft and, later, punches to the throat—is Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman), whose androgynous name is pointed out a lot because Mazin apparently believes that to be funny despite the overwhelming evidence that it is not. Sandy is an accountant at a financial firm in Denver and has a wife (Amanda Peet), two kids, and one on the way. Sandy is underpaid, and his boss (Jon Favreau) is a jerk. A group of people at the firm decide to rebel and start their own company, and Sandy joins them for a higher salary.

Meanwhile, Diana is using her copies of Sandy's credit cards to buy a lot of things, like spa treatments and round after round of drinks at a bar in Florida where she's eventually arrested for public intoxication and projectile vomits on a cop. Sandy ends up arrested in Denver when Diana has a warrant issued against her, and after convincing the ludicrously useless police that he's not the person they're looking for, they still hold him accountable for crimes of which Diana is suspected.

Sandy tries to get a detective (Morris Chestnut) to call up the local precinct in Florida to arrest Diana, but the cop insists there's nothing he or anyone in Florida can do (this, despite the fact that the Denver police are more than happy to take of things for the police in Florida, which contradicts even the movie's inane internal logic). If only there were some kind of federal bureau that could handle the investigation of such crimes, everything might be resolved easily and quickly.

Instead, for reasons that make absolutely no sense in any context, the cops let Sandy go down to Florida to make a citizen's arrest and bring Diana to Denver where she would be charged with some kind of crime (even though she hasn't committed any there, which, again, goes against the movie's own logic). Sandy tracks her down, and she runs. Two gangsters (Genesis Rodriguez and Tip "T.I." Harris) show up and try to kill her for selling their boss bad credit cards, and as if that set of antagonists weren't enough, a bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) with unclear motives (If he's actually law enforcement, why does he threaten to commit arson to scare a witness, and if he's not, for whom does he work anyway?) turns up to find Diana, too. All three possess a preternatural ability to find Diana and Sandy any place and at any given time.

While it might not seem fair to harp on the plot of the movie, it's perhaps the sanest route of discussion. The alternative points to discuss include Diana making up a story about Sandy having mutilated genitals, a sadomasochistic sex scene between Diana and Big Chuck (Eric Stonestreet), an odd scene in which Chuck tries to convince the gangsters to stay away from the gated community he represents because it's full of bigots, the inexplicable swing in which Diana becomes just a misunderstood sad sack who just wants to be loved, and, of course, more and more moments in which she punches people in the throat. Tearing apart the plot of Identity Thief is the kindest move one could make.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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