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"IDENTITY THIEF"
(2013) (Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: An unassuming man has his life turned upside down when he travels across the country to find and return the woman who's stolen his identity and ruined his credit.
PLOT:
Sandy Patterson (JASON BATEMAN) is an ordinary account representative at a large Denver corporation that only rewards its executives. He's married to Trish (AMANDA PEET) and they have two young daughters and another child on the way. Things are going well until he's duped on the phone by Diana (MELISSA McCARTHY) to believe that she's calling from a credit alert bureau. In reality, she's fishing for his private info, and once she has it, she creates a driver's license and credit cards in his name and goes on a wild spending spree in Florida.

Once Sandy learns of this, the damage has already been done. Not only has his credit been ruined, but the police show up to arrest him for missing an aggravated assault hearing, something they believe he did in Florida despite his protests that it wasn't him and he's never even been there. To make matters worse, he's just taken a new job with a fellow former employee, Daniel Casey (JOHN CHO), who's now second guessing his decision to hire Sandy.

After charges are dropped against him once a photo of Diana is found, Sandy learns that the local police have no jurisdiction to get her. Accordingly, and given one week by Daniel to prove his innocence, Sandy flies to Florida with the intent of finding and returning Diana to Denver in hopes that she'll admit the truth to Daniel and the police and thus clear his name.

But he quickly realizes this isn't going to be as easy as he figured, with one mishap after another further complicating his plans. To make matters worse, two armed thugs -- Julian (TIP "T.I." HARRIS) and Marisol (GENSIS RODRIGUEZ) -- are after Diana for supplying their imprisoned boss with bad credit cards, while a bounty hunter known as the Skiptracer (ROBERT PATRICK) is also after her. With a pattern of lies and annoying behavior, Diana pushes Sandy's tolerance to the limit as they begin their road trip back to Denver.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
A few years ago we joined the illustrious ranks of millions of other Americans who've become victims of identity theft. Without getting into specifics, it didn't ruin our credit rating or have debt collectors on our tail for unpaid balances of purchases we never made. But it was a pain in the rear in terms of checkpoints that had to be put into place, government agencies that needed to be notified, paperwork that needed to be filled out and so on. Needless to say, it wasn't a particularly fun or funny experience.

That said, I can see the potential for making a comedy out of such matters, especially since there's a potential audience of millions of similar victims would might get a laugh out of watching the villain in such a scenario get his or her comedic and certainly due comeuppance. In the early moments of the appropriate but unimaginatively titled "Identity Thief" that would certainly seem to be the case.

In it, Justin Bateman plays an ordinary Denver guy who falls prey to a fishing scheme, has his identity stolen, and both his credit and reputation damaged. On the other side of the equation, we see Melissa McCarthy in Florida playing the perp who's both good at what she does to get the money and then in ways of spending that, both shopping spree and party style. Learning the local police have their hands tied, and with just one week to clear his name or else loose his brand new job, Sandy flies down to the Sunshine State to find and bring Diana back with him for some confession time.

And for anyone who's seen the trailer or TV ads for the movie, yes, McCarthy plays the oversized obnoxious type to Bateman's straight man character who becomes increasingly annoyed not only by her behavior, but also by various setbacks and obstacles that threaten to derail his plan. The only problem -- and a fairly significant one at that considering the genre in which the film falls -- is that it isn't that funny.

Sure, there are a few humorous moments scattered here and there that might elicit a chuckle or even a belly laugh now and then. Overall, however, the material is pretty much insipid as it recycles material we've seen done before (and better) and goes down the route of being crass and profane rather than imaginative and inspired.

In short, it turns into a typical "road trip" movie where one character serves as the constant irritant for the other, a plot device that might have been penned here by Craig Mazin ("The Hangover Part II," "Scary Movie 4"), but which has been deployed countless times before in other flicks such as "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," "Midnight Run" and, more recently, "Due Date." While some viewers like that sort of scenario, Mazin and director Seth Gordon ("Horrible Bosses," "Four Christmases") don't do anything particularly imaginative with the premise and thus what's offered feels like reheated leftovers from other films.

Most of the material revolves around Diana lying about herself and/or Sandy (as well as his unisex name), including that his "man parts" don't work. That leads to what's supposed to be an outrageous sequence where she convinces a stranger ("Modern Family's" Eric Stonestreet) to have sex with her in front of her horrified victim because nothing's funnier than two large people fooling around, especially if it involves some "backdoor" activity, so to speak.

As bad as that is, a subplot featuring two criminals (T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez) and a bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) competing to capture the identity thief doesn't do anything for the story (beyond padding the running time to nearly two hours when it should have been 90 minutes tops) and provides few if any laughs. I'm not sure if the filmmakers were trying to recapture the old violence and comedy mixture of the Eddie Murphy classics "Beverly Hills Cop" and "48 Hours," but these extra villains end up wasting everyone's time.

The filmmakers also -- probably to no one's surprise -- decide to go the touchy-feely route in the second half, showing that the villain is also a victim of her past and thus really isn't that bad of a person. While McCarthy manages to make that transition without subjecting viewers into nails down the chalkboard treacliness, that material -- like everything else surrounding it -- isn't handled with enough of a deft and/or imaginative touch to make it as effective as it might have been.

McCarthy is certainly game for giving the role her all, including lots of physical comedy, some of which stems from her plus size, thus putting her in the same category as past big man comedians like Belushi, Candy and their like. Bateman's part is less demanding, and while he's okay playing the increasingly annoyed victim, I would have liked to have seen more edge. In fact, if the film is already neck deep in bad behavior, why not go all out and have everyone scheming and attempting to take advantage of others?

While a tiny bit of that plays out in terms of the protagonist's initial (and mean) boss (played by Jon Favreau), it stops well short of what could have turned into quite an inspired comedy of bad behavior. In its present form, and perhaps rightly so, "Identity Thief" feels like it's lifted material from other, more original films and thus comes off as a cheap imitation that doesn't stand up to any sort of critical scrutiny. With few genuine laughs, it rates as just a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed February 5, 2013 / Posted February 8, 2013


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