Movie Review: Identity Thief has an identity crisis

Identity Thief (2013) Screenshot - identity thief movie

Sandy Patterson is the wealthy nice guy in every comedy ever. Diana steals identities for a living, maxing out credit cards on everything from expensive appliances to spa treatments and exorbitant bar tabs. When Diana steals Sandy’s identity, she gets a little more than she bargained for. You can spot the story of different people learning from each other a mile away.

What’s harder to spot is what kind of movie Identity Thief wants to be from one moment to the next. What begins as a straightforward, heartfelt, Judd Apatow-esque comedy suddenly morphs into a slapstick cartoon, vulgar sex-comedy, action-comedy, and back through all of those again. How ironic is it that a comedy called Identity Thief has an identity crisis?

Identity Thief image

This constant shift in tone only adds to the feeling that this movie just goes on and on and on. Few comedies warrant a runtime of nearly two hours, and Identity Thief isn’t one of them. A smart editor could have done a lot to make this more entertaining. Tightening up the laughs-per-minute should have been the first order of business.

Identity Thief is probably one of the funnier movies I’ve seen in a while, yet I would go fifteen or twenty minutes at a time without a peep. That speaks more to the overall state of movie releases at the moment than this one’s inherent quality. In the grand scheme of successful comedies, Identity Thief is a blatant failure.

It doesn’t help that anything beyond the jokes is just boilerplate nonsense. There’s a clear lack of effort in the writing of Sandy Patterson’s perfect little home life, his corporate job, and the police work in his identity theft case. It’s a hard movie to buy into, at least until the plot becomes such a cartoon that it doesn’t really matter anymore.

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By the time they wrap back around to a compassionate story, that idea is too disingenuous to take seriously. The bottom line is that if you look for more in your comedy than laughs, you’re going to come up empty. Even if you’re just there for laughs you’ll be left with little to grab on to.

The performances here are fine. Bateman has to do a bit more physical comedy than you’re probably used to, but he’s still Michael Bluth in my eyes. Melissa McCarthy is appropriately out of control and most likely poised to blow up thanks to this and her upcoming (and much funnier-looking) film The Heat. (As a sidenote, the use of the song Bad Girls by M.I.A. in both this and the trailer for The Heat was really weird)

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A handful of fun roles, from Robert Patrick as a redneck bounty hunter to Jon Favreau as the world’s worst CEO, manage to sprinkle a bit more life into the film. T.I., on the other hand, doesn’t do much of anything.

All in all, Identity Thief is simply too empty and underwhelming to justify its length. It really does seem to go on forever without the laughs to justify it.

2 star rating

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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