Thursday, February 7, 2013
Review: "Identity Thief"
For a movie that's essentially a gender-scrambled version of "Midnight Run," "Identity Thief" is an amiable rip-off.
Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy play familiar types for them -- he the nice, slightly stiff pushover; her the wild girl with an oversized personality and inability to distinguish when she's crossed the line of social decorum, which is pretty much always.
They get tossed together in an unlikely cross-country road trip, one a straight man and the other a charming scamp. We've seen this sort of casting before in "48 Hours," "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and the aforementioned "Run."
The changeup is the antagonists-turned-buddies are a mixed gender duo. I'd say this adds sexual tension, except that persnickety Sandy (Bateman) isn't even slightly tempted by the Diana, the plus-sized powerhouse who stole his identity.
The setup from screenwriter Craig Mazin is that Sandy, a drone at a Denver finance company, gets fooled by Diana into giving up his personal data. Soon she's collecting Jet Skis and buying the entire bar a round of drinks on Sandy's dime.
When the police (led by Morris Chestnut) put him in the clink and his boss (John Cho) threatens to can him for his supposed misdeeds, Sandy has no choice but to travel down to Florida, find the woman posing as him, and bring her back to Colorado for a reckoning.
(Actually, there are many other choices, but this is the sort of flight of fancy that demands you gate-check the logic centers of your brain before boarding.)
Sandy, who constantly gets kidded about his gender-unspecific name, leaves his devoted family to embark on this quest. He shows his wife (Amanda Peet) Diana's mugshot, pointing out her size as a way of reassurance. "It's hobbit height. I'm going after Bilbo."
It's an entirely predictable ride, with Diana turning out to be an unstable but somewhat pitiable creature. And she's got bigger troubles than Sandy, with no less than three bounty hunters after her. Robert Patrick is the best of the three, turning it into a personal grudge match when they wreck his clunker van. (The other two, an incongruously pretty pair played by T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez, should've been disposed of in rewrites.)
I got a few special chuckles regarding Sandy's complaints about having to travel to Winter Park, Fla., "pretty much the worst place in America" (and my hometown).
Their initial faceoff is a hoot, with Diana nailing Sandy with a karate chop to the neck -- she's wont to do that -- and giving what is probably the shortest foot chase in cinematic history.
As she did with "Bridesmaids," McCarthy takes a showy role and milks it for all it's worth, showing a sharp sense of comedic timing and a willingness to poke fun at herself. Although little moments here and there, like Diana catching on to the derisive sniggers of the posh set, clue us in that there's more depth than her brash, felonious exterior would suggest.
Director Seth Gordon leads his cast through their paces, never surprising us but nearly always entertaining. "Identity Theft" may be a carbon copy of other, better movies, but this facsimile still pleases.
3 stars out of four