AFI DOCS 2014 (Days 3&4)

Identity Thief

Identity Thief isn’t terrible. It’s just not very good. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that the movie could and should be so much better. Make sense? Especially when you factor in the definite appeal of its two stars, Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses, Arrested Development) and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, Mike & Molly). The premise starts out decent enough: Bateman plays Sandy Patterson, a mild-mannered corporate accountant whose life begins to implode when an eccentric con-woman (McCarthy) steals his identity and puts him in hot water with the cops and his boss.

In an effort to clear his name, Sandy tracks down the identity thief, Diana, in Florida and convinces her to return to Denver with him to ‘explain things’. That’s where the plot sort of goes off the rails. The movie turns into an R-rated road-trip comedy complete with shoot-outs, car chases and a sexual tryst with a drunken cowboy played by Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet. Now erase that visual from your mind. Some scenes are funny. Others, not so much. And don’t ask me to explain where the pissed-off drug dealers and maniacal bounty hunter fit into the mix. They only serve to muddle the heavily-flawed plotline.

As with every roadtrip comedy (including the recent Guilt Trip), the carpanions eventually start to see each other in a new light. It’s formulaic stuff.  Sort of like the dynamic that played out between Steve Martin and John Candy in the (far superior) classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles. In fact, McCarthy could easily be the John Candy of this generation. She just needs the right vehicle (Remake Uncle Buck as an Aunt!). And what can I say – I like Jason Bateman. He may always play the same straight-man-to-the-absurd-sidekick role, but it suits him. That’s why I can’t completely pan this movie. Bateman and McCarthy do the best they can with the material, and it has some entertaining moments – most of which you can see in the trailers. So I wouldn’t say don’t see it ever. Just don’t go out of your way to see it (for anything more than matinee prices) before it hits the rental and airplane circuit.

And oh yeah – never give your name, address and social security number to an unknown caller. Duh.

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