Sunday, March 10, 2013

Identity Thief

The concept of this film holds some promise. After having his identity stolen, Sandy Patterson's (Jason Bateman) life is falling apart as he is being held responsible for the crimes committed and debts inured by a career criminal that specializes in credit card fraud. The traditional methods of fixing his credit after ID theft takes years and the authorities won't do anything to help him unless the perp is caught red handed, so Sandy takes a cross country trip on his own to apprehend the fake Sandy. Because Sandy is a unisex name, the thief that stole his identity is a woman (Melissa McCarthy). When they're forced to drive from Florida back to the real Sandy's home in Denver, hilarity supposedly ensues. Unfortunately, the great potential of this film is never realized. Identity Thief is a flawed movie from opening to closing credits. The story itself is straight forward: good guy hunts down bad guy, good guy captures bad guy, good guy drags bad guy back for justice, and in the process bad guy makes many attempts to escape. The screenwriters must have assumed that this story line was too simple so they introduced multiple subplots. These minor plots distracted from the over all story - especially Sandy's desire to enact revenge on his sleazy boss (Jon Favreau) - a concept that worked much better in 1997's Nothing to Lose. Since the victim taking a road trip with the perpetrator concept was too ordinary, their trip is complicated by not just one, but three additional characters hunting down the criminal Sandy, and a police force that interrupts the revenge plan sub-plot. First is a pair of gang hitmen (Genesis Rodriguez & T.I.) sent to kill Sandy for selling bad credit cards to their boss. The other is a bounty hunter known only as Skiptracer (Robert Patrick). These pursuits result in gun play, several punches to the throat, multiple car crashes, and a snakebite. And that punch to the throat is overplayed. First time it was funny, the second time not so much, and every punch after that was just annoying. The biggest error in this movie is the complete unlikability of either of the main characters. Bateman as Sandy is pathetic. He is a pushover who inspires zero empathy. At the beginning of movie, he willingly hands over his social security number, birth date, and enough other pieces of information that even the least ham-fisted criminal could steal his identity. Throughout most of the movie I couldn't help but think, 'he deserves this.' McCarthy as Sandy is a vile and repulsive character. She's an obnoxious and vulgar alcoholic who seems to be doing everything in her power to make people despise her. Like her male counterpart, with people chasing her down to either kill her or throw her in jail, I kept thinking, 'she deserves this.' By the time either character shows any redeemable qualities, it's all ready too late - I can't stand either of them. The only reason I want the real Sandy to succeed is for the sake of his wife (Peet) and friend (Cho). As much as the hitmen/bounty hunter threads distract from the main story, I actually enjoyed the scenes with them more than the ones without them. Even as side characters, they were more compelling than Bateman or McCarthy. Their interactions were funnier than most of the rest of the film - especially the scene where Patrick shoves T.I. into a car trunk and when that trunk is later opened by police. I find it sad that these small roles were more convincing and enjoyable than the movie's protagonists. I wouldn't say Identity Thief is a horrible movie, but in no way is it a good movie either. This is one that is best to wait until it is available on Redbox or wait until it's broadcast on a premium cable channel.

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