‘Identity Thief’ (2013) Movie Review

Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy in Identity Thief
Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy in Identity Thief
Photo: Universal Pictures

Identity Thief is hardly worthy of a review. It’s a consistently bad comedy that’s entirely dull throughout. A business man (Jason Bateman) stupidly gives his personal information to a stranger over the phone, she subsequently steals his identity, ruins his credit and his new job as VP at a new investment firm is put in jeopardy. Seeing how it can take up to a year to clear his good name, this guy decides to hunt the woman down himself. “Hilarity” ensues.

There is so little to say about this movie it’s alarming. When you’re watching a comedy you’re aware of when the filmmakers think you should laugh. With Identity Thief those moments involved a series of throat punches, name-calling and a sex scene involving Melissa McCarthy and a Midwest cowboy (Eric Stonestreet) who doesn’t mind having sex with another man’s wife. It’s so uneventful, I actually have little, to nothing else to say.

For the sake of a review, I guess I could ponder the myriad of ways Bateman appears to have given up, at least when it comes to comedy despite his knack for tapping into that certain “something” audiences can so easily relate to. Or I could mention how McCarthy’s Hollywood value seems to begin and end with being loud and hurling profanity-laced insults at a rapid pace when she so clearly has much more to offer. She does, however, manage to show some range in a brief, tearful moment, but considering this is supposed to be a comedy, the fact I’m lauding a moment of sincerity should say enough about the film’s overall quality.

A countless number of road trip comedies exist, but the only comparison this film is worthy of is the terrible Due Date, which itself was even better than what’s seen here, though just as incompetent. Cars will breakdown, short cuts will be taken and trouble will be found with the locals along the way. Go figure.

Written by Craig Mazin (The Hangover Part II, Scary Movie 3 and Scary Movie 4) and directed by Seth Gordon (Four Christmases, Horrible Bosses), the reliance here is on swearing, insults and the aftermath of each. So little attention is paid to even the smallest of details that once boredom sets in you begin to wonder how an investment firm is able to get off the ground in less than 24 hours with an office building fully furnished, glass doors, metallic locks and wall-to-wall HD television screens or just what kind of giant snake can bite in the neck and have no lasting effect. We forgive plot holes like this in good movies, but in bad ones it becomes all there is to discuss.

If any comedy is to be found in the piece it comes in a short scene between Genesis Rodriguez and T.I. who play a pair of killers on McCarthy’s tail for pawning off some bad credit cards. The two sit down with the aforementioned cowboy and discuss Midwestern values and I’m quite sure there isn’t a curse word used in the entire scene. I understand swearing can emphasize a punch-line, but when it becomes the only source of comedy you begin to show just how flawed your writing has become.

What’s most amazing is how studios are beginning to rely on these R-rated comedies for their edgy language and questionable humor and yet how formulaic they all remain. There are no surprises here, all the way up to the final moments where I’m sure you can guess at how all this will turn out and you won’t be too far off the mark, and any potential “surprises” won’t have you singing the film’s praise as much as you’ll be rushing for the door, wondering whether you should ask for a refund.

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