Identity Thief, right, is a film about…well…an identity thief. It is a comedy, or so it would have you believe. The film revolves around Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman), a businessman who is sickeningly happy with his nice house, lovely wife and perfect kids.
Oh HEY! Before I go on, have you noticed that Sandy is, like, a bit of a girls’ name? Haha. I mean, it’s unisex, but it’s so girly! HA! If you were writing a film and you had a boy character with a girls’ name, and you had absolutely no imagination at all, you’d have to milk that joke, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, that’s what writers Craig Mazin and Jerry Eeten opt for. That dull attempt at inducing chuckles sets the tone perfectly for this movie.
Anyway, Sandy has his identity stolen by a woman who we’ll come to know as Diana (Melissa McCarthy). She decides to live the high life on her now unlimited funds, having cloned an absurd amount of credit cards in Sandy Patterson’s name. Through various misdemeanors on her part, the real Sandy begins to have problems with the law, in his work life and financially. He decides to track down the woman who is ruining his life and bring her to his home City of Denver so that he may force her to face justice, and so he can get back on with his life.
Ok, to give the film a tiny bit of credit, it’s not a completely horrendous premise. The life that Diana chooses to steal is exaggerated and all of the resulting capers are unlikely and unrealistic, but there are enough films that do that and it’s not a problem. Unfortunately, a reasonable comedy set up fails massively to produce any real laughs.
There is absolutely zero originality or imagination in this movie. An unfortunate and uncomfortable portion of the ‘comedy’ comes from the unavoidable fact that Melissa McCarthy is an overweight woman. Whether it be an obvious joke about the size of her meal at a restaurant, or the fact she can’t run very fast, the film never once misses an opportunity to poke a bit of fun at her size. What is presumably an attempt at being hilariously ‘politically incorrect’ falls flat, delivering a large portion of hideous ‘humour’ with a sizeable side-helping of cringe.
HEY! Also, did you notice there is a man called Sandy in this film? Ha! Oh, you’re not laughing? But…it’s a man! And he’s called Sandy! Sandy is a name that one might more typically associate with humans of an altogether more female gender. HA.
The story itself saunters down an already over-trodden path; two people stuck together by circumstance don’t like each other very much. However, as time passes their opinions of each other start to change and you begin to feel they might just become friends. Sadly though, by the time some of the films more sentimental moments come around, the characters have become so non-descript and insipid that it’s impossible to be moved or emotionally invested in their fates and development.
The biggest identity theft to take place here is committed by the film itself, by brazenly cloning the format of the far, far superior Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Whereas Planes had bucket loads of heart, loveable characters, a genuinely moving story line and some genuine laugh-out-moments, so Identity Thief lacks it all.
There is so little to comment on that it’s actually become quite difficult to review. To give you an idea of how bad I found this film to be, it clocks in at 111 minutes and I laughed six times (yes, I counted). I don’t really fault the actors for their performances; they are given lifeless characters and a turgid script, yet still manage to wring a handful of laughs out of it all. And, to give them their dues, Bateman and McCarthy do at least have some reasonable on-screen chemistry. They work well together, it’s just a shame they don’t have anything intelligent to play with.
By the end of the movie, I was actually extremely grateful that it had been as predictable as it was. Had I been required to put any level of thought into it I’d have been furious, given that the writers and director clearly hadn’t. As an aside, my favourite thing about going to the cinema to see this film was the pre-trailers advert for a mobile phone containing a great version of Sound and Vision by David Bowie. Alas, I digress…
The root cause of my problems with Identity Thief is that it commits the most heinous of comedy crimes; it assumes no level of intelligence in its audience. If anything, it assumes a lack of intelligence. It will ask you to chuckle at a fat man taking his clothes off, it will expect you to care for two woefully developed and unlikely characters and it will demand you laugh at a guy called Sandy. Because, y’know, he’s male. And Sandy is a girls’ name. Haha. I am begrudgingly awarding it points for being ever so slightly better than I anticipated and for the fact that Bateman and McCarthy at least give it their all, even if they can’t pick much comedy meat from it’s humourless bones.