Rant and Rave: ‘Identity Thief’

Rating: 2.0
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

These past few years have seen a renaissance in comedy. It’s a given that not every comedy film will get great reviews, but consider the period between Bridesmaids and last year’s Pitch Perfect. At least four films (Bridesmaids, 21 Jump Street, Ted, and Pitch Perfect) have been either critically applauded or had reached numbers enough to give them the title of blockbusters. Incidentally, these films also feature characters that stand out and make the film credible and excellent.

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the comedic renaissance is Identity Thief whose lead star, Melissa McCarthy, whose sublime acting brought Bridesmaids to Oscar greatness (she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for the estrogen driven film). In today’s fast paced world, Identity Thief strikes a chord with the issue of privacy and security. Sandy Patterson, played by Jason Bateman, is a normal family man who tries very hard to make ends meet for his doting wife and kids. All this changes when Melissa McCarthy’s character, Diana, tricks Sandy into giving her his information including his social security number. After a spree of shopping and a slew of tricks, the cops arrive at Sandy’s office to arrest him, but he then proves that it wasn’t him who spent all that money; he makes it a point to capture Diana himself.

After the very tedious but fast paced ten minutes, the film steers itself into the direction of almost all comedies today: a buddy comedy, a friendly adventure to run away and prove something (Paul, 21 Jump Street). The odd thing about Identity Thief is its struggle to pair McCarthy and Bateman, and though nothing is wrong with it, it’s a pain to see the hero and the heroine of the story run through such an awful script.

The cameos helped the film a bit, like the surprise appearances of The Office’s Ellie Kemper and Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet who played Big Chuck, a role fit for the comedic actor. The added villains, on the other hand, do nothing to elevate the quality of the comedy; basically, they just chased the duo down well until they got caught by the police… no fear was instilled nor were there any quirks spewed out.

Granted, Identity Thief is a slapstick film, but any self respecting comedy in Hollywood today won’t be complete without the sentimentality or light drama that brings out the acting chops of the cast, and the film didn’t lack drama. Melissa McCarthy gives a top notch performance as the half of the comedic pairing, but when she cried and showed her vulnerability during the climax of the story, it only solidified her status as a versatile comedienne in today’s saturated market of actresses. The story highlights the theme of friendship, an idea that is explored in the aforementioned films in the beginning of this review, but what sets apart Thief is the fact that Diana is pretty much alone and is in desperate need of a friend, a quality that justifies her actions in the film. Jason Bateman, on the other hand, delivered a so-so job which led him to be stuck in a role that is reminiscent of his other acting credits like in Horrible Bosses and Arrested Development.

One of the things that hurt the film badly, in terms of its overall impact, was the screenplay. At first, the film builds up to this chance meeting between Diana and Sandy, and that scene was golden between McCarthy and Bateman, but the pacing of the story was somewhat restrained. Admittedly, the two leads made their performances effortless and brilliant in saving the film from being a total shipwreck; it is important to note McCarthy’s acting brought justice to most of the scenes that were getting too boring to comprehend. Bateman tried to resuscitate some, but he did great on the scenes with Melissa.

At the core of the film is the theme of security; whether you talk about friendship or familial security, Identity Thief discusses the issues people are dealing with day in and day out. Companionship makes up a big part of what the film is all about because it explored the dynamic between Diana and Sandy, two different people who understood each other in the time they shared together. It’s safe to say that Thief wouldn’t be deemed as a comedic classic, but it did provide a great platform for McCarthy and Bateman to show their acting prowess, and to at least make the audiences laugh, even for just a minute.

Daniel Ian Comandante

By Daniel Ian Comandante

16 replies on “Rant and Rave: ‘Identity Thief’”


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