Identity Thief

Year 2013

Jason Bateman as  Sandy Bigelow Patterson  
Melissa McCarthy   as Diana
Amanda Peet as Trish Patterson
Jon Favreau as Harold Cornish
Morris Chestnut as Detective Reilly
Robert Patrick as Skiptracer
Jonathan Banks as Pablo
Director - Seth Gordon
Screenwriter - Craig Mazin

Frequently disgusting, Identity Thief is an example of mistaking unnerving statements for humor. The writer apparently has no sense of humor outside of that limited context. Either that or director Seth Gordon let Melissa McCarthy get away with ad-libbing and she has no sense of humor. Maybe that was it, and what might've been funny on-stage, with only niche segments of society well represented in the audience, does not translate to mass appeal.

Let's get on with what passes for a plot. It's a road movie, so people need to travel from one end of the country to the other while getting to know a bit about life and themselves along the way. In this movie, the audience also gets to know way too much about people that they'd never share a cab with.

But before we venture on into the detestable, let's focus on the improbable which is the plot. The chief of internal finance or something like that gives his name, social security, and date of birth to a cold caller selling him identity theft protection. Fire this guy. Then, the cold caller uses the information to run up credit card bills. Within days, even the guy's cable is turned off. Needless to say, he loses his job unless he can, "clear his name". Do what?

I've had my credit card number stolen. You call the bank, they say okay and ask if you want a new card. They also tell you that if you take matters into your own hands, you will be liable for all charges against the card. The movie mentions none of this.

Instead, Sandy (Bateman) flies to Florida to take Julia (McCarthy) back with him to Denver so that she can turn herself in. To further complicate things, Julia is being hunted by a skiptracer and a two person hit team. Can it get any more contrived? Yes! Sandy only has a week to bring her back and when the returning-to-Denver duo runs out of money, at exactly the right time after they inevitably run out of money, they have a rare, once in a lifetime, opportunity to get more. Even when Sandy steals clothes, the stolen clothes fit him perfectly.

To ratchet up the tension (or contrivance factor), Sandy's wife if pregnant at this time. I wonder why she didn't go into labor or something while her husband was away. Probably because the writers didn't think of it.

Somehow, all of the bad guys keep track of Sandy and Julia by way of a Lo-Jack. Whether they're driving a rental car, a stolen 1990s van, or a $200 1970s Caprice, all of the cars seem to have Lo-Jack. Sounds like a lazy writer to me.

Still, all of that could all be forgiven if the movie was funny, or even just not insulting. But it is insulting. Every other expletive is blasphemy, and there are hundreds of expletives. I don't get it. Why pick on God?

And redneck jokes must've been real hoots around the writer's table, especially when scripting the role of Big Chuck who has sex with Julia. It was demeaning and crude and coarse in the movie and embarrassing in the audience. But it was not funny. It was even psychotic with Sandy pretending to be Julia's husband and Big Chuck wanting to get the cuckold's permission one minute and then threatening him the next. Somehow humiliating Sandy was considered foreplay. (I need to scrub myself until my skin turns pink. What was that radiation wash they showed in Silkwood? This movie makes you understand the importance of a thorough cleansing.)

Imagine Rosie O'Donnell, Hilary Clinton, and Roseann Barr in a pile. That's no worse than the movie's attempt to make Melissa McCarthy anything more than a poster child for chastity.

The main character of Dawn/Julia is unlikable. From her appearance, to her lack of responsibility, to especially her choice of conversation topics, she is ultimately not worth the time. I know that the point that movie tried to make was that everyone, no matter how troglodytic (it's a real word, I looked it up), is really nice inside and worth the time to get to know them. But the character of Julia needed to have been at least a little sympathetic for this theme to work.

So then why isn't it worse than Torn and Frayed? Two reasons:

  1. The acting is good.
  2. At least 2% of the jokes are funny.

Here are a couple of funny ones.

Sandy: That number right there? That's her height. That's hobbit height. I'm going after Bilbo.

Julia: This is what they do on Survivor.
Sandy: When they want to get punched?

Then there's the scene where Julia makes a run for it. Even at top break-away speed, she's barely faster than a brisk walk. After about ten yards, she gets winded. That was THE high point for humor in this one, people!

That's about as good as it gets. No nudity, some profanity, lots and lots of blasphemy, a stale plot, no originality, coincidence piled on contrivance heaped on accident. With very little chick flick potential, women will be as disgusted as the guys. That's a plus when discussing Identity Thief.

Back to the "Torn and Frayed " list or the main movie list.