Ever since “The Hangover” (2009), Rated R comedies have been hugely profitable. Almost all fronts R Rated movies are more financially risky, and on average make a lot less than any rating below it (such as the PG-13 rating). However, comedies are a genre that has no such problems and this is in a “post Hangover” movie world where companies have no problem making rated R comedies. “Identity Thief” (2013) joined that category and certainly looked promising. Two great leads and interesting premise made up for the lackluster trailers. I had my doubts but I went in with an open mind and a packed theatre and hoped for the absolute best. I came out incredibly disappointed in this almost laugh free affair with two leads trying their best but can’t carry this bland, predictable and clichéd script.
The film follows a small time family businessman named Sandy Patterson whose life is everything you’d expect normal to be. But then out of nowhere his identity is stolen and it will cost him his job. Sandy decides if the police won’t help he’ll take matters into his own hands and tracks down the person who stole his identity and bring her back to Denver, where he resides in order to save his job. While the person who stole his identity has no intention of being brought back to be jailed and so the cross country trip begins.
It’s no secret we have seen the “road trip” movie a million times before. “Midnight Run” (1988), “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” (1987), and “Due Date” (2011), road trips films are nothing new and has had an established formula to them. Taking two character that don’t initially like one another get paired up to go on some sort of trip across the country in order to get to their destination (never seem to be able afford a plane) and get into wacky situations and you know by the end of the movie the characters would reconcile their differences. “Identity Thief” (2013) is no different at all and follows the formula note for note. It’s not a spoiler in the least bit, the trailer reveals most of what you will be seeing in the film, and audiences aren’t in for many surprises with this comedy. It is as clichéd and predictable as they come. The best types of road trips movies, work within the formula then add new layers on to it, to create something familiar yet new. Let’s face it there isn’t too much of a different set up between all of these different road trip films, however the good ones use, good characters, fun, humor, good pacing, and a little bit of heart as well, to make it a quality film. This is missing most of those. I don’t require every film to be unique and different. I am perfectly fine with many elements and tones of the movie to be familiar, if I didn’t, then horror movies would be a completely unsalvageable genre to me.
Touching base on the elements I listed above, the film does have good lead characters. Jason Bateman plays…Jason Bateman. He is seriously the same character in every single movie he is in, (with the exception of “Dodgeball” (2003) and it clear that he is very limited in his range. However it’s understandable that he would play the same person over and over again since he is likeable. He is very likeable and very funny in the roles he is in. This is no different; once again he plays a very likeable person. Is he funny? When the script allows him to be he is funny.
Playing opposite Jason Bateman is female co-star Melissa McCarthy. She plays…Melissa McCarthy. See a pattern starting to emerge? Melissa plays the same type of character she established in “Bridesmaids” (2011) and doesn’t seem to be branching out from that either. She has been type cast from the moment she was in that film and broke out into a star. Eventually audiences will grow tired of her and quickly. For the moment she is a very likeable and fun lead star and does her best the material she is given. Her character is sympathetic, vulgar, and wild; even with such a weak script the one thing it did right, was create sympathy for her and added several different layers to her character. The end result is one of the few things I wasn’t expecting and surprised me. The script did also allow her to use her more serious, dramatic, acting chops and behind all the yelling and screaming types of characters that she is forcing herself into, is a really good actress and I hope we’ll see more of that in the future before audiences grow tired of her like many other great fallen comedic actors.
Here is the biggest weakness of the film, something I have been hinting at nearly the whole review: the script sucked. There is no two ways about it. The film is supposed to be a comedy and there are few laughs in the movie. Far and few in between, the comedy stays strictly in the lowbrow slapstick humor where someone getting punched is suppose to be funny. Other scenes come off as an awkward silence rather than a roar of laughter. The dialogue isn’t particularly interesting, and some lines are there to establish plot devices and motivations for the characters in an extremely forced and painfully cringe worthy way. It tries to have heart but most of that gets lost in translation, and only pops up in certain scenes and shifts the audience’s gears and never stays consistent throughout the film. The best parts were the end with Melissa’s character. However the whole film didn’t have that feeling of heart throughout and the chemistry between the two leads try hard to keep it alive, but even they can’t keep it alive.
The film did have some key ingredients that could have made this a more memorable film going experience. The two leads are good and likeable and Melissa’s character has multiple sides to her, and gives the film somewhat of a beating heart that keeps seeming to lose its pulse. Universal announced that they plan on giving this film a sequel, and given the fact that most comedy sequels almost never live up to the original, I would be comfortable placing a bet that the sequel will be equally as bad if not worse than this one.