"Identity Thief," the new road trip comedy starring Jason Bateman and current comedy it-girl Melissa McCarthy, is an ugly movie. Itâ€™s not ugly in terms of the visuals, though director Seth Gordon (of the far superior "Horrible Bosses" and "The King of Kong") doesnâ€™t exactly bring much originality or energy to the project.
No, "Identity Thief" is ugly because of the way it treats its characters, its cast and, by the filmâ€™s end, its audience. When itâ€™s not ugly, itâ€™s frustrating, and when itâ€™s not frustrating, itâ€™s merely dull. "Identity Thief" is a lot of things; funny is unfortunately not one of them.
Bateman stars as Sandy Patterson, an unappreciated cubicle worker so similar to every Jason Bateman film character that I wonder if he bothers changing clothes between shoots. He does have a horrible boss, briefly played by Jon Favreau, but heâ€™s got bigger problems than bonus-swindling CEOs. It turns out his identity has been stolen by Diana (McCarthy), a desperate, hoarding con artist who has burned out her credit cards, picked up a drunken disorderly and made trouble with a local gangster â€“ all under Sandyâ€™s name.
Since the police (led by Morris Chestnut) are incredibly inept â€“ Iâ€™m no law expert, but the policeâ€™s hands seem so tied, Iâ€™m thinking of taking up the con â€“ and his new job is at risk, Sandy flies down to Florida to snag Diana and bring her back to Denver to admit to her crimes, clearing his name in the process. Of course, the task is much harder than expected, and after some vehicular mayhem and a seemingly endless number of throat punches, the two are forced to drive across the nation together with gangsters (Genesis Rodriguez and rapper T.I.) and a grizzled bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) in hot pursuit.
Despite the numerous zany pit stops â€“ one in a honky-tonk bar where Diana finds a rowdy Texan (Eric Stonestreet, who does better work on "Modern Family") to annoy Sandy, another in a forest where Sandy has an unfortunate run-in with some snakes â€“ thereâ€™s not much life to "Identity Thief." When itâ€™s not frustratingly contrived, the plot is tired, predictable and meandering.
The gangster subplot doesnâ€™t help, adding unnecessary drama, ugly violence and very few laughs â€“ save for when Patrick shows up, looking like he was just dragged off his couch.
As with any road trip comedy made post-1987, the goal is to duplicate "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." And much like numerous other failed clones, "Identity Thief" replaces the humanity that made John Hughesâ€™ film a classic with weak cartoonish humor, often repeated to diminishing returns â€“ it has more throat punches than The Rockâ€™s entire filmography â€“ and hectic set pieces filled with desperate, uninspired slapstick. Thatâ€™s if youâ€™re lucky; large portions of writer Craig Mazinâ€™s script seem to forget jokes altogether.
The humanity is most sorely lacking in the characters, namely McCarthyâ€™s cruelly constructed Diana. Itâ€™s an ugly cartoon character, not because of her weight or her fashion sense (though Gordon and Mazin milk these things for as much mean-spirited humor as they can), but because sheâ€™s purposefully destructive to others, and the script forces her to puke and behave as unpleasantly as she can.
But, in one of my least favorite emotional ploys, "Identity Thief" tries to humanize its cruel, destructive creation in the hopes of teaching everyone a lesson and showing that maybe the main character just needed to loosen up a bit. Itâ€™s been done before in movies, and it almost always comes off as disingenuous, mainly because of comedy writersâ€™ desire to go bigger and ruder with the funny character. Movies like "Dinner for Schmucks," "Due Date" and now "Identity Thief" amp up their absurdity and reckless behavior to the point that their humanity is left in the dust, and any attempts to salvage the characters feel unearned.
The filmmakers want to have it both ways. They urge the crowd to laugh at Diana and cheer when Bateman hits his rude, lewd travelling partner, then try to make the audience feel bad and turn her into a real person.
It just canâ€™t be done, but give the overqualified cast props for trying, especially McCarthy. Sheâ€™s impressively dedicated to the role, and when "Identity Thief" gives her human moments â€“ a tear-filled dinner speech is the big scene, but sometimes, itâ€™s just a look that reveals the years of hurt and loneliness leading her to crime â€“ theyâ€™re almost touching. Itâ€™s an occasionally tender performance in a movie that doesnâ€™t deserve it.
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published June 30, 2016
Have you ever been eating a bowl of macaroni and cheese, and thought to yourself, "You know what would make this mac 'n' cheese better? If it was a pizza instead." No? Well, too bad, because SoLo did, and thus we now have the mac bottom pizza.
Published June 30, 2016
Pop Motown soul outfit Fitz and the Tantrums burned the house down at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse Wednesday night - even if the band wasn't quite dialed up to the scalding, sizzling, record-high temperatures of its past Big Gig visits.
Published June 29, 2016
Hawaii may be thousands of miles - not mention most of an ocean - away from the Cream City, but local pop/hip-hop performer Corey Pieper is doing his best to bring some flavor from the shores of Maui to the shores of Milwaukee.
Published June 28, 2016
What better place to be reminded that it's noon somewhere than at an airport? That's the hope with the new Leinie Lodge, a small but sufficiently sudsy watering hole that opened up this morning inside General Mitchell International Airport.
Published June 28, 2016
You probably thought the opening of Summerfest was going to take up all of the festival spotlight this week. But the joke's on you, as in swoops Milwaukee Film, revealing the first eight highly anticipated selections for this year's festival.
Published June 27, 2016
And now, a very important update concerning the newest member of the Aaron Rodgers-Olivia Munn family, Frankie - not to be confused with Chance, the couple's other dog, who is also very good at Instagram.
Published June 24, 2016
As OnMilwaukee's resident insufferable millennial, it is my job to look at the Summerfest lineup every year, scoff at all the bands and then resume snarkily Snapchatting a GIF-storm. However, there's still a lot worthy of your earholes this year.
Published June 21, 2016
Before the champagne had dried on the Cavaliers' celebration Sunday night, people already began looking for which sports fans were the saddest now that that city's losing streak was over. And wouldn't you know it, it's us. But really, Milwaukee is not the next Cleveland.
Published June 20, 2016
Inspired by an unexpected collaborator located several miles south, Postman's Plot - found on Wells Street and 2nd Street - now has an updated look with a plethora of new seating options and a mailbox to send letters to Milwaukee.
Published June 18, 2016
Businessman and star of CNBC's "The Profit" Marcus Lemonis has obviously gone places since his time at Marquette. But today, he's returned to the Cream City -- and he's apparently bringing some cameras with him.