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Identity Thief

2013 | 111 min | R | 2.39:1

Identity Thief


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Theatrical release date

 08 February, 2013
 01 March, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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Identity Thief


Screenshots from Identity Thief Blu-ray

Identity Thief Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, February 7, 2013

I don’t believe I’ve come across a screenplay as fundamentally flawed as “Identity Thief” in quite some time. It’s a comedy that’s not really much of a comedy, and it forces the audience to sympathize with a monster of a woman, even while she shows no remorse for her awful crimes. If there was some type of comedic mayhem in play, with characters tossed around the frame for a breezy 80 minute sit, perhaps the feature could’ve skated by on delicious madness. Instead, “Identity Thief” stops for violence and tears as it lumbers through nearly two hours of strident performances and faux heart, convinced there’s a soul in here worth the laborious effort to find it.

A happy family man facing troubles at his corporate day job in Denver, Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) is aching for a break, finding relief when his co-workers decide to start their own financial firm, offering a bright future to a favorite employee. Before his new life can begin, Sandy is hit with the news that his identity has been stolen by Orlando resident Diana (Melissa McCarthy), who’s plunged the responsible one into massive debt, threatening to derail his life. Heading to Florida to stop Diana before she does more harm, Sandy hopes to convince the scam artist to return home with him and clear his name. Putting up a fight, Diana uses all her tricks of self-defense and credit card fraud to slip away from Sandy, but when a skiptracer (Robert Patrick) and a pair of criminal enforcers (Genesis Rodriguez and T.I.) arrive looking to collect the habitual liar, she decides to keep close to her trusting mark, playing herself up as the victim.

“Identity Thief” isn’t a raucous comedy that could mine Diana’s lunacy for comedic gold, turning the viewing experience into an amoral joy ride where anything goes. Instead, the screenplay aims to make Diana lovable, bestowing a Dickensian backstory of infant abandonment to help ease compassion, while her adult form is openly mocked by the fit and fashionable, looking down on the insane woman as she attempts to buy happiness with goods procured through stolen credit cards. It’s almost as though “Identity Thief” is suggesting Diana is blameless for all the misery she’s causing because, deep down inside, she just wants to be loved. That’s right, the crook is actually the good guy here, with this deeply disturbing logic dominating the entire picture.

Make no doubt about it: Diana is a sociopath. She’s a vile character who openly steals, assaults innocents, and exploits weaknesses, spending her day making fraudulent charges all over Orlando (the picture depicts the city as an oceanside paradise, but basic geography lessons will have to wait for another day) without a care in the world, plunging Sandy into crippling debt, inching him to a devastating reality of unemployment. While a certain sense of foundation for Diana’s pathological need to be liked is to be expected, “Identity Thief” is absolutely ludicrous in its hunt to keep the spender vulnerable, even while she continues to lie, cheat, and steal throughout the film, occasionally halting her routine to break down in tears and share her heartbreaking history with Sandy. It’s a ghastly approach that legitimizes criminal behavior. Even worse, director Seth Gordon (“Horrible Bosses,” “Four Christmases”) doesn’t fight the contemptible message of the movie one bit.

Diana’s celebrated evil aside, “Identity Thief” is a lousy comedy that spins McCarthy around like a top, with the in-demand actress clowning it up big time with straight man Bateman, flopping and fussing through scenes, while Gordon simply surrenders a few moments to abysmal improvisations. McCarthy’s a gifted comedienne, but when there’s dead air, there’s no amount of curdled make-em-ups that will salvage the moment (this bent voodoo applies to the entire cast). As a road movie, “Identity Thief” is inert, missing a freewheeling sense of travel as the two opposites endure radio sing-alongs, car chases, and sharing time, shoveling sensitivity into the equation. There’s also a film-halting detour into a Georgian bar, where Diana hooks up with Big Chuck (Eric Stonestreet), resulting in a scene where the pair wheeze and bend through various sexual positions. It’s like a bad “Saturday Night Live” skit, fattening a picture that’s already overlong and overstuffed with characters, with the three goons in pursuit unable to liven up the effort, making their oddly violent content all the more painful to endure. There’s more than enough for “Identity Thief” to chew on when holding tight on Diana and Sandy and their itchy relationship.

The film actually reaches a point where Sandy and his wife (Amanda Peet) discuss the relative insignificance of the monumental debt Diana has dropped on them as long as they keep the crook as a friend. Yes, “Identity Thief” is that insane. It’s also that unfunny and immobile, attempting to complicate a simple premise, only making creative choices that emerge from a place of mainstream moviemaking fear, not pleasingly reckless delusion.

Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, T.I., Morris Chestnut
Director: Seth Gordon

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