|Courtesy of Universal Pictures|
Somewhere in here, there is a good movie. It has been lost however, in a blizzard of aimless plots, random appearances that amount to little more then cameos, and an uneasy lack of clarity as to if the film wants to be a comedy in the style of Horrible Bosses (as it was heavily marketed) or a road movie with heart.
There is enjoyment to be had while watching Identity Thief, it just requires the viewer to switch off the part of their brain that relates any one scene to any other that occurred beforehand, or will occur afterwards. Because the characters at the heart of the film are fun to watch, if deeply cliched. It's just a shame they weren't at the centre of a better film.
Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that once spent a year living under the name "Philipo Agenzila," with little success.
The script for this film is so damned choppy, I assume it was written at the hands of many writers, each of which brought what they thought was a clever idea to the table, but none of which fully developed their ideas, and never fully exorcised the previous clever idea. This results in a a tangle of plots that appear, do nothing, and then stick around for longer then they should. It also results in tonal shifts and random and jarring changes in character motivation, with only a fine gloss of an excuse as to why suddenly they are doing what they are doing.
But these diversions isn't the film's biggest sin. That would be the colossal waste of talent involved. Jon Favreau is given third named credit, and appears in all of one scene. I have to assume that a considerable amount of his filmed material was left on the cutting room floor. I make that assumption with no proof, it just makes me feel better then the idea that they gave him that high ranking a credit for a single scene (unless he has the best agent in the world). The same is true for Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad's Mike) whose appearance as... someone in prison, really is all we learn about him, I thought was going to bring a level of bad ass to the film, but be did nothing. He sends two hit men after the main characters, by why is never made clear. It is something to say the heroes are in danger, but for it to seem like anything other then a shallow plot device, there needs to be a reason. Amanda Peet continues to be cast in things she's better then, with no opportunity to do anything other then smile occasionally. Only Robert Patrick gets anything remotely resembling a full role, as a bounty hunter who is alternatively ridiculous and menacing. Again though, he's given no more motivation then a toss away scene involving a disembodied voice sicking him on the duo.
As a road movie, there is nothing new here that hasn't been done a dozen times since Planes, Trains and Automobiles, through to Due Date, and it doesn't try to hide the fact that it has nothing new to say or add. The entire premise of the movie is in itself absurd, and hinges entirely on the apathy of the Denver police department, a characterisation I'm certain they are pleased with. The film takes far too long to establish the premise, and right from the moment the "plan" is hatched, ever person watching knew exactly how it was going to end, because it's the same way every movie where two people hate each other have to spend time together: by the end they will love each other. Considering that much of the humour of the film hinges entirely on the vitriol Jason Bateman's character feels for Melissa McCarthy's, once that disappears, so do the occasional laughs. There might have been an opportunity to subvert this genre of film by maintaining the dynamic, not having anyone learn and love and grow, and just focus on the lives of horrible people.
The bright spots of the film are the stars, with McCarthy out shining Bateman at every turn. Bateman puts as little effort into the role as possible, playing an even less enthusiastic version of the character he usual plays. McCarthy though swings for the fences, and kills it at every turn. Her clearly improvised ramblings are never tiresome, and illicit the truest laughs of the film. More then that though, she shows her dramatic chops, and brings real emotion to a breakdown scene which sits unfortunately in the middle of the film's most pointless subplot (or rather, at that point, sub-sub-plot). I'd like to see these two pair again, as they have great chemistry when they are allowed to, so long as they pair in a better film. Identity Thief will undoubtedly be one of those films on their resume that they'll try their best not to draw attention to in years to come.