Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 51 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Sexual Content and Language
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Written by: Craig Mazin
Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Genesis Rodriguez, Morris Chestnut, John Cho & Robert Patrick
Jason Bateman is a funny actor. Melissa McCarthy is a funny actress. Seth Gordon’s previous film was HORRIBLE BOSSES, which was quite funny. So with this obviously funny combination, why isn’t IDENTITY THIEF funny? Part of the reason might be attributed to the lagging pacing or overlong running time. Another component may be the overused jokes that have already appeared in many other movies and feel stale by this point. There are plenty of reasons, but I’ll get to those in a minute. Sad to say that IDENTITY THIEF is a missed opportunity and a mediocre comedy.
Sandy Patterson is a guy going through a rough patch in his life. He’s a loving father to two young daughters and his wife is pregnant with a third. He’s living paycheck to paycheck due to an underpaying job and serves his obnoxious boss, who frequently takes advantage of the employees. When Sandy’s arrested for missing a court appointment in Florida that he didn’t even know about, the police inform him that a woman (named Diana) has stolen his identity. Besides just ruining his credit, Diana is making Sandy’s life a living hell in other ways (involving the police and a very real possibility of losing his job). Sandy is left with no other option. So he does the unthinkable and travels to Florida to bring Diana back to confess to her misdeeds. Getting there was easy and taking her back won’t be as simple…
Good things first, IDENTITY THIEF does have some funny moments. None of them are particularly memorable. They did garner solid laughs from me. Credit where credit is due, some of the jokes work. None of the cast members do a sub par job playing their characters. Jason Bateman is nice enough as Sandy and Melissa McCarthy delivers most of the workable jokes as Diana. Robert Patrick also appears as a ruthless bounty hunter looking for Diana. The real issues with characters don’t come from the acting, but from the script. I wasn’t given a single reason why I should care about either Sandy or Diana. They aren’t really compelling (or funny) and their introductions seem to follow beats that have been used in plenty of other comedies (e.g. the unappreciated employee or the scumbag with no friends). The actors are watchable and do as good a job as they can with the tired material, but the writing is what really sinks IDENTITY THIEF.
Besides the lack of good characters, the film also runs far too long. The plot was crowded with many subplots in order to make itself a little more complex. Thus IDENTITY THIEF wears out its welcome. The film might have worked a tab better, if a few of these unneeded storylines were cut out. At one point, Sandy and Diana have two sets of people after them (gangsters and the aforementioned bounty hunter) and it feels completely useless. The way both these plot-threads conclude is anticlimactic to say the least. Not to mention that the film attempts to get some real sympathy out of the viewer for Diana and it’s a futile exercise. I was given no reason to care about Diana in a positive light to begin with and thus I certainly wasn’t going to feel pity for this obnoxious criminal when some supposedly sappy moments were milked out of the premise.
IDENTITY THIEF isn’t terrible. It isn’t particularly good or even decent. The entire movie is a middle-of-the-road affair. Everything feels wasted in some way or another. It all has to do with the writing too. The film wears out its welcome, is overly complicated, has falsely emotions, and doesn’t produce a single fleshed-out character. In this case, it doesn’t matter how good the directing or acting are. The script is stale and that’s entirely where the blame belongs in every single problem spotted throughout IDENTITY THIEF. It’s a mediocre comedy that will entertain some people, but everybody could certainly do far better than this!