To start off with, I loved Horrible Bosses when it came out, and I loved it when I watched it again earlier this year with my sister. Its mix of dark comedy and a central cast of characters that play very well of of each others’ personalities made for a really enjoyable film and, in my opinion, the second best comedy of 2011 (After Bridesmaids of course). When the trailer for Identity Thief came out, it looked like it would manage to harness the waves of good reputation enjoyed by Horrible Bosses and Bridesmaids co-star Melissa McCarthy and wind up giving audiences a great buddy comedy in a movie season that has been so far completely bereft of laughs. Once more material started to come out, a lot of people started to become worried that the added element of the drug enforcement subplot would take away from the movie’s laugh-oriented focus. I shared that concern, but I kept faith that director Seth Gordon would be able to fit an action component into the film without sacrificing comedic
integrity. Now that I’ve seen the finished product, I can finally say that I was right, but not for the reasons I thought. The drug enforcement side plot doesn’t sacrifice any laughs in Identity Thief because there are scarcely any laughs to sacrifice. Identity Thief could have been the first great comedy of 2013, but instead it wastes its stars talents on a ridiculous plot, cheap physical comedy, and incredibly annoying characters.
Mild-mannered businessman Sandy Patterson travels from Denver to Miami to confront the deceptively harmless-looking woman who has been living it up after stealing Sandy’s identity.
One of the biggest things Identity Thief had going for it was its straightforward, relatable plot. Many people including yours truly have have experienced identity theft at some level, so it should be easy to put ourselves into Sandy’s shoes, right? Well, that would be the case the movie followed reality in the slightest when it comes to how society handles the crime in question. I won’t go into too much detail, but the way that the police, the credit card company and Sandy’s employer deal with his situation are completely ridiculous. This ended up having the opposite of the intended effect on me. Instead of thinking “Gee, what if this happened to me?” I just kept thinking “Well, if this did happen to me that’s definitely not how things would pan out” and all the while it just got harder and harder to ignore that thought.
By this point in time, I’ve gotten used to the fact that Jason Bateman has always and will always play the same exact character. Bateman always ends up in Paul Rudd-ish roles as the normal guy who is surrounded by weird people. He’s the everyman who we can imagine as a substitute for ourselves, the voice of reason that we would provide if we could enter into the story ourselves. The thing is, it’s a role he’s been able to play really well since his days on Arrested Development, so it never really bothers me. As I said before though, the relatable factor on Bateman’s character is what ends up working against the movie for the most part. We imagine ourselves in his shoes and get damn near as frustrated as he is with the crap he’s going though, and it’s really hard to laugh when you’re busy being frustrated.
It also really pains me to see Melissa McCarthy being given so little to do here as I’m also a big fan of hers. Not only is she a great addition to a frustratingly small group of women who are currently in comedy, but in all of the interviews I’ve ever seen her do she comes across as a person who is very funny and easy to get along with. Unfortunately, Diana is just such a goddamn shitty person here that it’s hard to laugh whenever you’re supposed to. Ruining the life of a man with a wife and two young children isn’t exactly knee-slapper material after all. In fact, one of the most noteworthy scenes of the movie (McCarthy finding an opportunity to escape only to encounter a crisis of conscience before she can do so) isn’t in the least bit funny, but it showcases some of the best acting I’ve seen McCarthy ever do.
I did at least enjoy a few of the cameo appearances that pepper the entire movie as if to try and distract us from how unfunny everything really is. Some that really stand out include Eric Stonestreet (aka Cam from Modern Family) as a hopeful third cog in a devil’s threeway with Sandy and Diana, Jonathan Banks (aka Mike from Breaking Bad) as the incarcerated drug dealer Paolo, and Ellie Kemper (aka Erin form The Office) as an easily manipulated waitress.
I’ve already mentioned the issues I have with how annoying the plot is and how unlikable the characters are, but a big part of the reason that I wouldn’t recommend this movie is that is simple isn’t funny enough to justify buying a ticket. I’d be hard pressed to think of a movie in recent years which had quite the ratio of laughs in the trailer to laughs in the actual movie, meaning that almost every single legitimately funny moment in the movie was featured in one of the trailers. The majority of the comedy revolves around McCarthy’s weight or Sandy’s name, as well as a great deal of scenes that were intended to be funny but end up just coming across as the characters being dickish in imaginative ways (i.e. Diana’s fake back story for Sandy).
The Verdict: 4.0/10 Not Worth It
+ Bateman and McCarthy bring their usual charm and some occasional heart
- The plot shoots for relatable but ends up being completely ridiculous
- Barely any laughs that weren’t already covered in the trailer
- Completely fails to live up to the expectations of it’s cast and director
Rotten Tomatoes: 24%
Fast Film Reviews: 2.5/5
Dan the Man Movies Reviews: 4.5/10
Cinematic Katzenjammer: 4/10
Black Sheep Reviews: 2/5
A Door Into Movies: 1.5/4
The Entertainment Maven: “Thief is not a recommend”
Average: 4.4/10 – Sub Par