** (out of 5)
February 8, 2013
Jason Bateman as SANDY PATTERSON
Melissa McCarthy as DIANA
Amanda Peet as TRISH PATTERSON
Genesis Rodriguez as MARISOL
T.I. as JULIAN
Morris Chestnut as DETECTIVE REILLY
John Cho as DANIEL CASEY
Robert Patrick as SKIPTRACER
Directed by: Seth Gordon
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
In spite of having two very funny stars and some talented people behind the film, “Identity Theft” seemed doomed from the start to me. At the very least, it seemed doomed from the trailers.
Sometimes comedies have to try so hard to pitch their premise to the audience that pretty much the first half of the film is laid out in the trailers, leaving very little enjoyability in that part of the film. I remember when Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson starred in “Anger Management” a few years back. This wasn’t a great movie by any stretch, but it was at least mildly enjoyable. However, so much plot had to be laid out in the trailer to get to the actual meat of the film – why Sandler and Nicholson were together in the first place – that watching the first 45 minutes seemed pedantic.
As a converse example, look at “Superbad.” That trailer set up the premise (an arguably simpler one) and left plenty of jokes, gags and shenanigans for the actual release. Of course, it helped out that much of the humor in that movie was so raunchy that it wouldn’t be acceptable for any greenband trailer.
“Identity Thief” falls more on the side of “Anger Management.” I like both Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, and I was completely open to having the two of them in a film together. However, so much has to happen to actually get them together that I felt like I was marking time through the film. Plus, the film suffers from the classic complaint that the funniest moments were in the trailer, so as you wait for the movie to pass you by, the only good stuff is what you’ve already seen.
And even then, it’s not that great.
But before the trailer was cut, “Identity Thief” suffers from a painfully thin premise. It tells the story of a mild-mannered businessman named Sandy Patterson (Bateman), named after Sandy Koufax, whose identity is stolen by a woman named Diana (McCarthy) in Florida. When his credit is ruined and he’s investigated by the cops, Patterson sees his only option is to bring her back from Florida to Denver to face the music. Cue goofy road comedy movie.
If this film had been made ten or fifteen years ago, this premise could have worked. Back then, identity theft was common but less believed. Getting your bank or credit card company to acknowledge that someone stole your account data was next to impossible in the 20th century. However, now banks and institutions are so hypersensitive to this that they have their own investigation teams to cover even the smallest infringement, and things are generally very customer-friendly about the process. (Yes, I’ve had it happen to me, and most people have seen something similar happen to them. It’s a very common problem.)
However, in “Identity Thief,” no one believes Patterson. They’re not even open to the idea of identity theft. He is arrested on an outstanding out-of-state warrant, and no picture is pulled until after he complains. Heck, apparently that warrant and arrest record doesn’t even have a male/female check box on it.
Of course, this all hinges on the fact that Patterson is a brilliant man with expertise in the finance industry (as he’s the lead accountant at a massive corporation), yet he gives out his complete credit information to a random caller on his personal cell phone. Literally within five minutes of the film, I had no sympathy for him because it was such a bonehead move.
There are so many other logistical problems with the film that it was impossible to suspend disbelief. Even though the crimes are essentially wire fraud and cross state lines, no federal authorities are brought in. There’s a bounty hunter who goes after Patterson with almost no information. Diana manages to wreck Patterson’s credit – including buying a new car – within a month with no warning bells or red flags going off for anyone. The movie even makes a point to say that Diana’s fingerprints were never run through any system in spite of multiple arrests.
Yeah, I’m overthinking a dumb comedy. I know.
But I have no choice because even when you get past the weak premise, there’s not a whole lot else to enjoy.
Both Bateman and McCarthy are funny, but they really don’t have much chemistry between them, and chemistry is essential for a road comedy that basically locks two people in cars and hotel rooms together.
In the end, “Identity Thief” spends its time overplaying an overplayed card and ignoring even the most basic elements of reality.