Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Film Review: Seth Gordon's Identity Thief

Yes, eternal straight man, Jason Bateman, and his latest comic foil, the ofttimes exasperating. but almost always funny Melissa McCarthy, do whatever they can to elevate the rather mediocre material they are given to work with here, but in the end, it is basically all for naught, because their film, Identity Thief, ends up a silly mess - and not in the good way.  Full of cheap gags and tired old jokes (is there anything here that we have not already seen a thousand times over in the hundreds of films just like this one that have permeated cinema for as long as anyone can remember - or at least since the cheapness of the 1980's first came upon us?). Identity Thief, is not saved by its stars, who, incidentally, both deserve much better.

The story of a loud and foulmouthed lifetime crook, who looks to be a cross between Mimi from The Drew Carey Show and some sort of caricature out of a nightmarish, Pepto-Bismol-coloured white girl version of a Tyler Perry movie - the titular identity thief - and the hapless sap that she takes advantage of, Seth Gordon's film opens up as if we might actually be going somewhere, but we quickly find out that no, we really aren't going anywhere at all.  Well, unless you count the same old cheap comedy road I mentioned in my opening salvo, then yes, we are going somewhere indeed.  All this is a shame, because both Bateman, and especially McCarthy, should be good in these roles, and they are actually good in these roles, despite of, or perhaps, in spite of, the roles being saddled down in the same old tricks and tropes of everything from Road Trip to Due Date to Little Miss Sunshine to National Lampoon's Vacation.  Not to say that such a scenario cannot work well, for we have films like Midnight Run, and yes, even the aforementioned Vacation (but not its myriad of sequels), but here there is nothing new, nothing fresh, nothing that makes us sit up and say, "hey, that's an interesting twist."  Just nothing.

Gordon's last film, 2011's Horrible Bosses, also starring Mr. Bateman, in yet another hapless straight man role (a thankless job really, but the guy is quite good at it, and in certain venues - Arrested Development comes immediately to mind - it works with flying colours), was a surprisingly wry comedy.  Kind of screwball, done right - a thing that happens very rarely these days.  This is just yet another reason to feel disappointment with Identity Thief.  This film should have been better - and most likely could have been with a little work.  But alas, even the funny moments in the film - and don't get me wrong, there are funny moments shoved in here at places - never live up to the talent that is wasted up there on the screen.  McCarthy, who is great on Mike & Molly (the comedic actresses most laid back, most realistic role), and who can easily ratchet it up to eleven when need be (her role in Bridesmaids, a film I absolutely loathed by the way, proves what kind of comedic hills and valleys she can traverse), and who is not merely a tractor-sized hippo, as the pugnacious Rex Reed has so infamously more than alluded to, has the potential to be one of the best comic actors working today - if given the right material.  Sadly enough, Identity Thief, though with potential, just doesn't seem to be that material.


Dan O. said...

Solid review Kevyn. The movie just doesn't offer anything new for the road trip genre and it makes me like Melissa McCarthy even more than I already did, but still be upset with the choices Jason Bateman has as an actor.

Kevyn Knox said...

Bateman a talented guy, and he does play the straight man as well as anybody, but he does make some iffy choices. This film though, may have looked promising from the beginning, for there is potential here. Hopefully McCarthy, very funny, very talented, will get some better opportunities in the future. Her new film with Sandra Bullock, who herself is a pretty talented comedic actress (yeah, I said that!) looks like it could really go either way, but I am guessing more toward the bad than the good side. We'll see.

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