She stole his identity, Identity Thief stole my happiness. Like a sponge where water is joy, like a Dementor at a soul buffet, like a prism that only bends darkness, Identity Thief pairs two comedic naturals and proceeds to stalk your laughter, lashing out with brutality every time you think you may want to laugh. Which isn’t often.
In fairness, Identity Thief isn’t that bad.
Okay, it’s pretty damn bad.
Melissa McCarthy. She was funny in Bridesmaids. Jason Bateman. He was funny in all those movies before all those other movies where he wasn’t. She plays a woman who steals a guy’s identity. He plays a guy who hunts her down to get his life back. It’s a great concept, with a great cast.
It’s also like Planes, Trains and Automobiles with more bad guys and a thousand jokes robbed of their punch lines.
The movie is eerily similar to another Planes rip-off, Due Date, which starred two other great comedic talents – Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis – and also fell horribly flat. Identity Thief feels like dozens of “SNL” skits that have drawn on for far too long, relying on improvisations by Bateman and McCarthy especially to make up for a script that lacks teeth. McCarthy desperately attempts to scrounge humor in any way she can, but the result is more painful to watch than Anne Hathaway hosting the Oscars.
The film crawls forward scene by scene, the jokes so unfunny that I not only considered walking out at one point, but that I actually acknowledged how little I had laughed. Things take a turn for the worse when Bateman gets attacked by a CGI snake, the unequivocal jump-the-shark, nuke-the-fridge moment of a film already in a downward spiral. Four hours later – which is really only an hour and a half later – the movie ends and I thanked the lord for surviving the movie without any overt suicidal thoughts.
This may sound like an “F” review, but Identity Thief isn’t that bad. It’s just another example of filmmaking that relies too heavily on stars to overcome blatant shortcomings that should have been realized and eliminated in the screenwriting process. Oh, and it is still pretty damn bad.
Where’s a Dementor to cheer me up when I need one?
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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