Identity Thief is long. Ridiculously long for Hollywood comedy. Indie-documentary darling Seth Gordon (King of Kong) was given the reins of this McCarthy-Bateman vehicle and judging by the amount of car crashes, stunts and people in the credits – they spent a lot of money. Clearly there was not enough money left over to hire an editor because there’s a decent 75 minute movie hiding in the 111 minute run time. Make no mistake about it – this is a star vehicle for Melissa McCarthy. She takes the ball and runs with it. Big time. She is up for anything that the stupid, first-draft script throws at her in the form of physical and verbal abuse.
“The story is ludicrous” – Maude Lebowski
originally referring to the plot of LOGJAMMIN’
It is your basic paint-by-numbers odd couple road movie. Think Due Date with McCarthy in the Zach role and Bateman in the Iron Man role. Only less funny. With a lesser script bogged down with extraneous characters. The gist of the movie is Bateman plays a good corporate bean counter-type fellow named Sandy who gets his identity stolen by a lady. Gasp! It is mind-boggling how much mileage the script gets out of the gender-neutral name Sandy. It’s a girl’s name! Bwaahahaha. That’s not normal for a man to have a girl’s name! Ugh. Were are firmly in Apatowlandia here, dirty jokes to coverup the regressive conservative agenda. Ugh. One dreams of Moonrise Kingdom to cleanse the brain from this type of ridicule, hetero-normative, cliche-riddled humor.
Anyway, Diana (McCarthy) takes Sandy’s identity and starts buying all kinds of crap, maxing out Sandy’s credit cards, takes out a car loan, yadda yada. Sandy works for Gutter (Favreau) who is a rich prick, the first in a string of over-the-top one dimensional characters. He hates his job since Gutter forces him to cut exorbitant bonus checks for the executives while sticking the worker bees with nothing. Then Sandy’s co-worker Harold (John Cho) forms a new company, quadruples Sandy’s salary and the guys are off to conquer the world far away from Gutter. Then inexplicably the local cops (lead by Ricky Baker from Boyz in the Hood!) show up to arrest Sandy for all of the trouble Diana gets into in Florida with his stolen identity. This causes Harold to threaten to fire Sandy since he’s making the new company look bad which leads to Sandy flying down to Florida to drug Diana, stick her on a plane, fly her back to Denver (where inexplicably and for no reason the film is set. Yeah Denver! Or not) to get her to confess to stealing his identity at which point Harold will give him his job back, Ricky will arrest her and live will resume with Amanda Peet and what looks like two young Apatow daughters.
Cue odd couple road trip movie overly complicated by two drug-lord henchmen played by JLo and Pitbull (just checked imdb – it’s actually T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez, sorry), throw in the T-2000 as a Dog the Bounty Hunter-like guy and add the movie’s only really decent subplot with Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet playing a slimy cowboy real estate developer named Big Chuck. Boy would it have been nice if the movie dovetailed Slacker-like and just followed Big Chuck for the rest of the film while Sandy and Diana drove off to complete their road trip movie without the audience being forced to watch anymore of it. Stop dreaming! Ok, the movie takes its sweet ass time to get back to Denver at which point everyone in the theater can see the ending coming a mile a way. Cue the strings, we are all one warm happy American family again! Yay America!
While there’s a level of sarcasm to this plot summary, the film’s lame script deserves the scorn. As mentioned, McCarthy’s Diana deals with all kinds of physical and verbal abuse because she’s fat and has poor fashion sense. What does this say about society in ObamAmerica right now? Can you imagine Jen Aniston or Katherin Heigl getting mocked and beat up in any movie they’ve ever done? Is it kosher to mercilessly pick on fat people since they deserve it for violating the norm of being good-looking and in shape? Who knows, this lazy film truly doesn’t deserve much thought yet one can begin to glean the seamy underbelly of America’s predilection by the things it finds funny in the motion pictures.
Identity Thief is at least not as outright vile and conservatively regressive as the terrorist recruiting video known as This is 40.
McCarthy has been building her career for years on the back of a popular sitcom and scene-stealing roles in Apatowlandia films. Her performance in this movie deserved a better story to support her. Director Seth Gordon is now a long way away from the brilliant indie documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. He seems to be content churning out lowbrow and sporadically funny Hollywood comedies (Horrible Bosses was decent). Screenwriter Craig Mazin deserves all of the anger of this film. He is the same man who wrote arguably the most vile Hollywood comedy not written by Judd Apatow – The Hangover II. Take a peek at Mazin’s credit list on imdb. Why? Why are you writing these scripts Craig? Why do you hate America so much and dear god WHY ARE PEOPLE FILMING THESE THINGS? We might be heading towards a double-dip recession, sequestration and more economic gloom and doom in this late-stage capitalist neoliberal nightmare – is it too much to ask for funny movies that aren’t brain dead and jammed with stereotypes and ham-fisted ridicule?
Maybe it is.