Identity Thief (2013)

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Identity theft is no small matter nowadays. Everyone seems to have their cards cloned. I know that I did a year ago! You’d think it’d be hard to pass yourself off as The Phage, as I’m essentially some weird shape with some legs… but I guess there are certain pockets of breeding in the UK that would yield an orange offspring with spikey legs. In a nutshell, identity theft is something that everyone is starkly aware of nowadays and as such is ripe for the glorious Hollywood treatment right? So how does Identity Thief cope? Does it actually have an identity of its own, or is it just some pale imitation of a superior product?

Sometimes you can’t but show favouritism towards something. You know you shouldn’t, but you do. Maybe you’ve got a child that you prefer more than his/her brother/sister? You clearly don’t tell them, but deep down… you do. The same goes for films when they star someone you’re quite partial to. See, I’m a massive fan of Jason Bateman. I love his style of comedy thanks in no small part to the fantastic Arrested Development. Sure, he’s always essentially playing the same role, but if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. And don’t fix it he does. Wow, that’s confusing to type. I’m sure I’ve broken 100 grammatical rules there. So when I saw that he was the lead in Identity Thief I was immediately interested in the film… but…

Identity Thief (2013)

OK, before I delve into the review, let’s give everyone a quick synopsis. Not that it’s needed. If you look at the poster and the title of the film, it should all be pretty apparent right? Jason Bateman plays Sandy Patterson – a good guy. He pays his bills, works in banking and tries to do right by his family. However, all this goes to hell in a handbasket when he has his identity stolen by some deranged woman in Florida (Melissa McCarthy). She racks up a ton of bills and arrest warrants; thus throwing Sandy’s life into turmoil. So what does he do? Well, he heads out to confront his female imposter in order to get his life back. With hilarious consequences.

The trouble with this film is it’s essentially way too long and relies on very weak jokes to keep it plodding along. As I’ve already confessed, I enjoy seeing Bateman on-screen, but not even this was enough to keep me engrossed in the movie. It just kept on going… and going… and going. At some points it felt like I was watching Due Date again, but minus the obvious tension of Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis’ relationship. The film also resorts to a saccharine tale of redemption and how one person can reform their character. OK, I should have been acutely aware this is what would happen, as it’d be hard for the film to take many other paths. And now that I think of it, I can’t actually see another way that the film would progress, but it still irked me. It seemed jarring.

The premise of identity theft should be ripe for some great send-ups, but the plot seems to have had its own identity stolen and replaced with that of a mindless pseudo-action/chase movie, replete with some extremely bizarre sex scenes and car chases. This… I wasn’t expecting.

Who are these people? Don't worry... they're superfluous.

Who are these people? Don’t worry… they’re superfluous.

Having said ALL of this, I still thought Jason Bateman was great. I love his style of acting and this is another fine example of him at his best. It’s just a shame that the script and plotting are so weak. Similarly, Melissa McCarthy is great in her role too; it’s just a shame her character is so vapid for the majority of the film and then unquestionably deep for the final third. Although she’s clearly a great comedic actress, I just grew tired of the gags they had her perform. As I’ve said previously – they just go on… and on… and on. She needed a more well-rounded character or at least some more impressive set pieces to allow her to flex her chops.

Ultimately, Identity Thief falls down in two key areas: laughs and plotting. It lacks both. What you’re left with is a film that’s confused about what it wants to be: a jack of all trades, master of none. It tries its hand at action, raunch and slapstick, but falls down in most of those areas. Hell, even if it worked in the slapstick department, I still wouldn’t be impressed, as that’s not really our favoured style over here at Film Phage.

It’s quite ironic that Identity Thief lacks identity. Maybe it was an extremely cunning and meta joke by the film makers here. Yes, surely that’s what they were thinking when they put together the movie. Surely? Oh… it wasn’t? This is meant to be an enjoyable comedy? Oh… alright then. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen worse movies in recent months, but this is clearly just a movie you’d watch “if it was on TV”. Look out though – it’ll bill itself as a comedy… it’s all lies. Spurious lies.

Phage Factor:

2 Stars