Friday, February 08, 2013

The Soon To Be Forgotten Off Season Folly Of IDENTITY THIEF

Opening today at a multiplex near you:

IDENTITY THIEF (Dir. Seth Gordon, 2013) 

Jason Bateman, in his standard exasperated everyman role, takes on Melissa McCarthy as a con artist who’s racked up a huge debt in his name in this uninspired comedy that deserves to be dumped into this sorry season.

Bateman plays Denver-based accountant Sandy Patterson - a name that could be a woman’s name which, of course, equals lotsa laughs - a straight laced family man married to the suitably bland Amanda Peet, who travels to Florida to confront McCarthy, and bring her back to confess her identity theft to Bateman’s boss (HAROLD & KUMAR’s John Cho) so that he won’t lose his job.

In what’s largely a PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES (minus the trains) or DUE DATE-type road movie, Bateman and McCarthy are pursued by drug dealers (Genesis Rodriguez and T.I.) and a skuzzy bounty hunter (Robert Patrick), as they go through by-the numbers car chases, gay panic jokes, and even a night in the woods in which Bateman tangles with a seven foot snake.

With her tacky hair, gaudy fashions, hideous makeup, and constant inappropriate innuendo McCarthy is a broadly drawn archetype that never feels fully fleshed out. Craig Mazan’s (SCARY MOVIES 3 & 4, THE HANGOVER PARTS II & III) screenplay exploits McCarthy’s BRIDESMAIDS persona, but in a manner that’s too sketchy for the character to have any depth.

This makes for a distinct lack of emotional pull and an overriding emptiness when the movie gives up trying to make us laugh, and piles on the sentiment.

Only one moment, set in a cheap hotel room, involving Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet as a rich good ol’ boy who falls for McCarthy has any weight to it.

Otherwise, despite Bateman tossing off a few dry one-liners, and a running gag involving McCarthy's defense mechanism of punching people in the throat, there is very little that even slightly resembles humor here.

It’s also way too long at 112 minutes, something that makes its lack of laughs even more noticeable. The in and outs of its tedious narrative so lost my interest, that I can’t remember what the significance of Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks’ prisoner character was in the rest of this mess.

McCarthy, who has proven her considerable comic talent in BRIDESMAIDS and a stint hosting SNL (I’ve never watched Mike and Molly), will undoubtedly get better chances to bring the funny in future films, so this will soon be a forgotten off season folly that won’t be much of a black mark on her resume.

As for Bateman, the much anticipated Arrested Development reunion reboot can’t come soon enough.

More later...

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