Movie review – A cookie-cutter, tedious comedy

2013-03-24 10:00

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Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy waste their comic capital in this ho-hum flick, writes Gayle Edmunds

Film: Identity Thief (UIP)

Director: Seth Gordon

Featuring: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Bateman, Morris Chestnut and Amanda Peet

Rating: 5/10

Having your identity stolen is not funny. But then, neither is this film.

I guess I should have known what to expect from Seth Gordon, the director of Four Christmases (at best a mediocre romcom) and Horrible Bosses, which short-changed audiences by failing to capitalise on something that was a pretty good idea – a fun spin of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.

Identity Thief is about an overweight sociopath called Diana, played by Melissa McCarthy. She has a bad dye job, terrible taste in clothes and a penchant for stealing identities to satisfy her shopping addiction.

Enter Jason Bateman as Sandy Patterson, a good family man with a solid job, two kids and a third on the way, courtesy of Amanda Peet, who is to this film what wallpaper is to a wall: pretty, but useless. The Pattersons’ steady life is about to be rocked by Diana, who impersonates Sandy Patterson and clones his entire financial wellbeing.

To cut a rather tedious set-up short, the real Sandy heads to Florida from Denver to scoop up the imposter, whom he plans to deliver to the cops in Denver. The reasons the police are not able to do this are as incoherent as the cop who provides the excuses.

Of course, the fake Sandy doesn’t fancy this plan, and so begins a rather contrived road trip, during which we discover Diana is misunderstood and unloved. What? It’s a bit like saying paedophiles have psychological problems and shouldn’t be treated like criminals.

Lots of people have a tough time in life, but only a few become bad apples and spend their lives thinking everyone owes them a free pass. It’s hard to buy into scriptwriter Craig Mazin’s “poor little girl” thing, especially after he’s first painted Diana as the worst kind of sociopath.

McCarthy, who got her TV break in Gilmore Girls and Mike and Molly before making her big screen comedy mark in Bridesmaids, is a skilled comedienne.

What I fail to get is why she thinks it is okay to allow Mazin to play the oldest card in the sexist playbook – all a girl needs to feel better about herself is a makeover and some male attention. Really? Still?

Similarly, Bateman, always Mr Nice Guy, squanders too much of his audience’s goodwill as the put-upon Sandy. He has one or two mildly amusing lines, as does McCarthy, but, in the end, it’s all so puerile.

It’s little surprise Mazin’s script is so poor on new ideas. He’s the guy who scripted the been-there-vomited-on-that sequel to The Hangover – not the clever original. Similarly, he scripted part three and four of Scary Movie, again not the original, and then there’s Superhero Movie, a film so bad my mind has erased it to prevent further damage.

Identity Thief is an idea that could have been smart and funny. But in the end, the film makers couldn’t fight their sexist instinct that all this fat chick needs is to be saved by a man who gets her. Yuck!

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