Identity Thief Review: Train-Wreck Of Daftness & Tonal Mayhem

identity thief

rating: 2

Identity Thief is a weird, patchy little movie, a laboured mix of kooky drama, cheerful daftness and raunchy carrying-on, with a silver lining of quality twisting through the tonal mayhem. Director Seth Gordon, fresh off the success of Horrible Bosses, and screenwriter Craig Mazin (of Scary Movie and Hangover fame) are no strangers to the lewd and the outrageous, the familiar mash-up of wackiness and ickiness that seems to be the dominant paradigm in mainstream American comedy at the moment. Their relevant experience allows Identity Thief to score some solid hits over the course of its vaguely screwball trans-American odyssey of fraud, love and debauchery. However, it€™s hard to ignore the nagging sense that the creators are coasting; it€™s as if Gordon is marking time with a disposable middle-tier flick before Horrible Bosses 2 rolls around and allows him to get back to the title that made his name. Nevertheless, Jason Bateman makes a good fist of the material, bringing his straight-man talents to the fore as put-upon everyman accountant Sandy Patterson, a decent enough husband and father who has his identity snaffled by Melissa McCarthy€™s obnoxious yet vulnerable fraudster €œDiana€, a hard-partying delinquent who, as the movie telegraphs almost immediately, really just wants to be loved. After going through the unpleasant experience of dealing with the fallout of Diana€™s frantic spending and criminal shenanigans under his name (scenes which are genuinely uncomfortable viewing due to their believability), Sandy boldly embarks on a one-man quest down to Diana€™s lair in Florida, €œthe worst place in America€, in order to convince his tormentor to come back to his native Denver and face the music. identity thief3 Hilarity, in a sense, ensues. A problem quickly emerges; the movie suffers from a shortage of ideas beyond its core concept, and unfortunately that often includes jokes. The script is occasionally capable of bringing the funny; McCarthy has a natural ability to engage with a mix of vivacious energy and doe-eyed angst, while Bateman€™s bland reactions to the craziness this woman seems to attract are often priceless. However, all too often the movie is coasting on filler, as if realising it turned up to the party without an original present and frantically wrapped up some standard-issue hijinks during the car ride over. There are a fair few moments that just sit there, uncomfortably; for example a completely random dash of racism involving some supporting characters, which comes out of nowhere and is then never mentioned again. Speaking of supporting characters, there€™s also a strong implication that a lot of B-plot was cut out of the finished product, which is fairly jarring. There€™s Bateman€™s money-grabbing, little-guy scorning boss, who seems like he€™ll be a bigger deal than he turns out to be, and Jonathon Banks (loved by millions as Mike from Breaking Bad) gets about two minutes of screen time as a snarling gangster but is basically pointless. There are also some feeble adversaries slotted into the plot in an attempt to spice things up with the mildest of mild peril, in the form of a pair of gun-toting crooks chasing Diana for a past transgression, and Robert Patrick as a thuggish €œskipchaser€ (apparently a cross between a debt collector and a bounty hunter), in a half-hearted attempt to evoke his most famous role. These characters bring little to the table, apart from sparking a couple of disposable action sequences that you can probably rest your eyes through anyway. identity thief2 At the final hurdle, the movie swan-dives into sentimentality, as McCarthy gets her inevitable redemption arc and reveals her hidden depths. But while €œadorable€ is a more natural fit for the actress than €œcoarse and amoral€, the flimsily-established €œbonding€ between Bateman and Mcarthy, (a woman whom he has every reason to despise) is never convincing enough to make her shift from enemy to oddball friend anything other than eye-rolling. And the less said about Bateman€™s postcard wife and family, who the script likes to wheel out to remind us what a relatable, everyday guy he is, the better. In short, we€™re not looking at a train-wreck. But you can€™t shake the feeling that talented people are straining to make the best of some pretty flimsy material. identity-thief-uk-quad-poster Identity Thief opens in UK cinemas on March 22nd.
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