Film Review – Identity Thief

Identity Thief Movie PosterHeading into the new comedy Identity Thief, I had modest expectations. The trailer wasn’t particularly entertaining, but I’m a big fan of both Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, so I figured it couldn’t be that bad. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize was that Identity Thief wasn’t just the title of the movie, but a description of performance by the lead actors—because they certainly weren’t the Jason Batman and Melissa McCarthy I’m used to seeing.

The story follows Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman), who, upon discovering that his identity has been stolen, travels to Florida to find the culprit, Diana (Melissa McCarthy), and bring her back to Denver to clear his name. In theory, you have one of the premiere straight men currently acting in Bateman to counterpoint McCarthy, who is one of the premiere comedians working…so, on paper, it seems like a dynamite combination.

Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Identity Thief is bad. Not epically bad to make it good again—just bad. It commits the cardinal sin of a comedy, and that is to just be unfunny. Despite having the title Identity Thief, it does very little in terms of exploring the concept of what identity means, which is a shame. In the history of film, some of the most memorable characters have been created using fake personas—think The Usual Suspects, Fight Club, Being John Malkovich, The Prestige, Arlington Road, etc. The list goes on; I’m sure you can think of many more. The unfortunate reality about this movie is that it doesn’t generate passion to even want to discuss it, but more of a form of indifference and disappointment.

The film is structured upon the awkward buddy-road-trip trope, unfortunately seeming to try to steal the identity of Due Date, rather than something more engaging like Midnight Run. Certainly there are some funny moments, and there definitely seemed to be a decent portion of the audience that appeared to be entertained to some degree, but as a bar for entertainment, this is a underwhelming and a disappointing example of what studios are greenlighting these days.

With that in mind, I decided to compose a list of the life lessons I garnered while watching the movie, to give a taste of what can be expected and perhaps paint a picture of the quality this project displays.

Identity Thief 1

Things I learned while watching Identity Thief, in no particular order:

#1. It is okay to hit a physically assault a woman…as long as it is done in a funny manner.

#2. It is okay to overlook an extensive criminal record as long as the person has “learned their lesson.”

#3. Awkward situations are always funny…always.

#4. It is always good to completely turn your life upside down, even when it was perfectly good to begin with.

#5. The police system is so disorganized that it is more realistic to attempt vigilante justice than for the police to actually solve any crimes.

#6. Even people working in the financial industry are susceptible to identity theft, including those whose job it is to safeguard other people’s personal information.

Identity Thief 2

#7. Sandy is a unisex name…not a girl’s name…a joke that never ceases to be funny so you will hear it about 85 times.

#8. It is fine that every other character in the movie besides the main two has zero character development. They don’t matter; so what is the point in exploring who they are?

#9. Making fun of fat people is always funny, because being fat is apparently inherently funny.

#10. Making fun of pop music is an easy way to make people laugh, even after you’ve done it multiple times. Like a fine wine, it gets better with age.

Despite having so many opportunities available for it (talented cast, classic film trope, thought-provoking premise), Identity Thief fails to let that potential materialize in any sort of meaningful fashion. The real crime is that a lot of people are going to pay to see this movie and spend their time watching it. Seeing it isn’t the worst thing you can do with your time or money, but is all we’re striving for avoiding “not the worst thing”? Can’t we aim a little higher? Go see Warm Bodies instead.

Final Grade: C-


Spencer was born and raised in New Mexico. He grew up with the many great films of the 1980’s before having his world rocked after seeing The Usual Suspects. He moved to Washington State to go to the University of Washington, and currently any free time he currently has is split between working on film projects and watching films.

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