"I've got no money, I've got no time, I've got no... pants."
As far as auspicious beginnings go, director Seth Gordon had one of the finest. His first feature length film was 2007's The King of Kong, an absolutely remarkable documentary about old school video game world records. It's unfortunate that his leap to fictional filmmaking has been notable only for how generic the films are that he's chosen to make (Four Christmases & Horrible Bosses). I am sad to report that his latest film, Identity Thief, does nothing to change that perception of Gordon as a director.
Sandy (Jason Bateman) is stuck working a thankless role at a large corporation when he fields a phone call from a woman named Diana (Melissa McCarthy) offering to help him protect his identity from being stolen. After a brief time on the phone, she has all the information she needs to successfully steal Sandy's identity and begin using it to rack up some major league purchases. After Sandy is arrested for missing a court date in Florida for assaulting a bartender, he realizes what has happened to him.
The only way for Sandy to reclaim his identity is to bring Diana to Denver, where he lives, since she can't be extradited across state lines (one of the many plot contrivances that seem to exist only to inflate an otherwise slim concept). Sandy travels to Florida to bring Diana in, only to discover that she's in big trouble with a drug dealer, his flunkies (Genesis Rodriguez & T.I.) and a skip tracer (Robert Patrick). The two unlikely companions are now forced to flee together across country in an attempt to clear things up.
As I hinted at earlier, my biggest issue with the film is the number of thoroughly ridiculous plot devices utilized to ensure that these two remain in each other's company for as long as humanly possible. The aforementioned extradition, the reason they can't fly together & are forced to drive, the drug dealers, etc. are all brought in to play solely to elevate this to feature length material. Eventually though, the film's bloated 113 minute running time gets the best of it, and all of these converging plot lines overwhelm the film.
I hate to accuse the film of being wholly unoriginal to boot, but it borrows from so many other "road trip" film playbooks, it's ridiculous. Even the mediocre Due Date is ripped off wholesale in a scene when Diana has a chance to runaway and then has a sudden change of heart. The film's climax is even cribbed a bit from Gordon's previous film, Horrible Bosses. I'm not asking for much from a comedy in this day and age, but the only thing that the film's screenwriter Craig Mazin has proven with every screenplay he's written (Scary Movies 3 & 4, The Hangover Part 2) is that he hasn't got an original thought in his head.
Thank goodness the fllm's leads are as likeable as they are, otherwise the film might have been a total disaster. McCarthy manages to mine the comedy in even the most banal situations, and her infectious energy is the only thing that keeps the film afloat for most of its interminable running time. Bateman is a world class comedic straight man, and he does a great job playing in counterpart to McCarthy. They're both amazing comedic talents that deserve infinitely better material than they're given here.
The film is aided by some great comedic turns in smaller roles such as Eric Stonestreet, Jon Favreau & even Patrick in his funniest turn since his role in Striptease. The major problem, which I can't stress enough, is that it's all in service of a film that's significantly less than inspired.
With a better script, fewer plot contrivances, and a tighter running time, there's a chance this could have been a much better film. As is, it's got a handful of laughs, none of which are worth wading through the rest of the film to get to. Like Horrible Bosses, it's got a talented cast that does the most they can with slight material & jokes that seem to consist of nothing more than people saying a curse word for a laugh. It's unfortunate that this film is a step backwards from that one, rather than the giant leap forward it should have been.
GO Rating: 2/5
[Photos via BoxOfficeMojo]