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‘Identity Thief’ review: The most boring road trip ever

By | February 09, 2013 | Blog
"Identity Thief" stars Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy. Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“Identity Thief” stars Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy. Courtesy of Universal Pictures

This is the NFL Pro Bowl of movies –a bunch of very talented people doing something that is usually quite enjoyable to watch, but instead what we get is simply boring. In other words, this is a perfect example of good actors, but a horrible script. The fact that the film’s go-to joke is about how funny it is that there is a guy named Sandy does not bode well for the writing.

“Identity Thief” follows Diana (played by Melissa McCarthy), a woman who has been using her credit card to go on outrageous shopping sprees in Winterpark, Fla. Only one problem, the credit card she has been using belongs to Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Jason Bateman), a businessman in Denver. Patterson now has to find Diana and bring her back to Denver in order to clear his name.

That plot should make for an interesting movie, particularly when Bateman and McCarthy are the stars. Not only that, but the director is Seth Gordon, who also directed 2011’s hilarious “Horrible Bosses,” which also starred Bateman. We should be in for an entertaining ride, helmed by people who know comedy. However, that is just not the case.

At 107 minutes, this movie feels much longer than it actually is. It is inexplicably slow in the middle. The pacing in the beginning is decent and then it suddenly slows down, surprisingly, when the Sandy and Diana characters finally meet up in Florida. Once Sandy gets Diana to agree to go back to Denver with him the story slams on the brakes, and that is not for the better. Toward the end, when it begins to feel like this road trip might never reach its destination, the film speeds to an overly clean and tidy ending.

A major cause of the pacing issues here are due to a subplot involving a variety of trackers played by Robert Patrick of Terminator 2 fame, rapper T.I., and the beautiful, but ultimately pointless Genesis Rodriguez, who are all after Diana. Their presence is unnecessary and ultimately only exists to slow down the story.

A lot of the plot here is overly forced. Rather than letting McCarthy be the weird, eccentric thief that she should be, the filmmakers try to force sappiness into her back-story. She cannot seem to make it more than 20 minutes without the movie trying to make the viewer feel sorry for her, a plot point it never truly earns.

It is truthfully only because of Bateman and McCarthy’s strong comedic talent that there are any redeeming qualities here. It is clear that a majority of the laugh-worthy moments “Identity Thief” has to offer are due to on-set improvising.

Ultimately, the blame here has to fall on the shoulders of writer Craig Mazin. Perhaps that really should have been the warning sign that this movie was not going to be as good as the trailer indicated it might be. When Mazin’s previous credits include the disappointment that was “The Hangover Part II,” as well as the tremendously unfunny third and fourth installments of the “Scary Movie” franchise, it really should not come as a surprise when he misses again. Given those previous films, this one is not that bad, but that in no way makes it a good movie. It just shows how much worse it really could have been.

A little blame also has to go the way of Seth Gordon, whose previous work on TV shows like “Parks and Recreation,” “The Office” (when it was still funny), and “Community,” on top of the aforementioned “Horrible Bosses,” proves he is capable of much better.

Sadly, “Identity Thief” misses on what was an intriguing premise. Despite a funny and talented cast, poor writing holds this move back, preventing it from ever being as humorous as it could have been. As a result, “Identity Thief” is a movie that elicits boredom rather than the laughs it so desperately wants.

‘‘Identity Thief,’’ a Universal Pictures release, is rated R for sexual content and language. Running time: 107 minutes. D+

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