Identity Thief

Movie Information

The Story: When a woman steals a man's identity and runs up astronomical debts, her victim tracks her down in search of reparation. The Lowdown: Overlong, distasteful, strikingly unfunny and badly written. It's not directed all that well either.
Genre: Raunch-com
Director: Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses)
Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, T.I., Genesis Roriguez, John Cho
Rated: R

Here we have about 70 minutes worth of movie spread out over 111 mind-numbingly painful minutes of running time. I almost bumped the rating up to a full star — based on one spot-on gag about an Ayn Rand adherent’s sense of entitlement — but that occurred so early in the film that it seemed pretty negligible by the time the damned thing limped its way to the predictable and improbable conclusion (not to mention its interminable curtain scene). What we have here is the common or garden variety R-rated raunch-com. The raunch-com is a movie with a tissue-thin one-joke premise that attempts to make up in raunchiness what it lacks in actual comedic inspiration. Usually, the name Judd Apatow is affixed in some way, though, here, Apatow merely had a hand in the inspiration. (Without the Apatow-produced Bridesmaids, it’s unlikely we’d be face-to-face with a movie designed as a Melissa McCarthy vehicle.) The idea is simply that raunchiness is funny in itself. Raunchy material can be funny. The mistake lies in the belief that it’s inherently funny for persons over the age of 14. And that’s only part of the problem here.

Let’s start with the premise. Jason Bateman plays Sandy Bigelow Patterson, a long-suffering management schnook who has to get along on starvation wages while his talentless bosses rake in the dough. (Note to Hollywood: I know a lot of people in the real world who’d consider $50,000 a year a windfall.) But his life is just about to get better when some fellow disgruntled employees invite him to join them in a new company. The snag here is that Sandy finds himself suddenly drowning in unpaid credit card debt thanks to a woman named Diana (McCarthy) — the identity thief of the title. Owing to the dictates of the script — and a dubious understanding of legal matters — it falls to Sandy to travel to Florida to bring her back with him. (Considering that this is a movie where the official synopsis considers Winter Park, Fla., to be on the outskirts of Miami — that’s like saying Asheville is on the outskirts of Wilmington — we shouldn’t expect much.)

OK, let’s forget about the fact that none of this is presented in a realistic or even coherent manner (the film is a masterful shamble of atrocious writing). Instead, let’s consider that it tries to find humor in watching some blameless boob have his world collapse around him due to the unconscionable greed of a sociopath — a sociopath we’re supposed to find likable and just unbearably cute. (They got the unbearable right.) It doesn’t work — and no amount of “she had a rough childhood” blather helps. Any chance that it might have worked is killed stone dead by presenting Diana as a wastrel trailer-trash pack rat in love with consuming for its own sake — the tackier the better. She plies her criminal trade not out of need, but out of pointless avarice. This is not the stuff of comedic gold — certainly not in a film that wants you to feel all fuzzy and warm about a character who has done her level best to ruin someone’s life.

Since there’s no more story than that outlined by the premise, all the movie can think to do is bring in some — barely explained — subordinate bad guys, the odd complication and, for whatever reason, Modern Family‘s Eric Stonestreet as a guy who picks up Diana (and by extension, Sandy) in a bar. This last is meant to lead to supposedly knee-slappingly funny kinky sex. The operative word is “supposedly.” That word hangs over the whole movie — supposedly a comedy, supposedly heart-warming, etc. — and rarely does the movie live up to a single supposition. Rated R for sexual content and language.

Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Asheville Cinema 14, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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