Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: Identity Thief (2012)

Identity Thief (2013)

A few weeks ago in my review of The Heat, I said that the hardest film in the world to review is a good comedy, because you have to find a way to recommend the film to people without spoiling all of the good jokes and ruining it for them. A bad comedy, on the other hand, is the hardest film in the world to actually watch. Reviewing a bad comedy is almost insultingly easy, because you have no problem giving away the jokes if you're trying to dissuade people from seeing the thing, but before you review it, you actually have to sit through the damn thing. And Identity Thief was downright painful to sit through. Not even Melissa McCarthy, who was so funny in The Heat and Bridesmaids, can redeem a film that is dragged down by both painful jokes and a plot that actually asks us to sympathize with a sociopathic criminal.

McCarthy truly is the only remotely funny thing in this film, and even then, the writing is never doing her any favors. She has to fight to make the viewer laugh, relying on awful singing and simply punching dudes in the neck as running gags. Jason Bateman as the "straight man" to McCarthy's whirlwind has nothing to do here other than move forward a plot that is simultaneously over- and underwritten, with threadbare supporting characters (T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez as contract killers, Robert Patrick as a bounty hunter, Amanda Peet as Bateman's wife) and all manner of plot devices designed to get Bateman's character across the country to bring back McCarthy's character to stand trial. This film commits the worst sin that a movie can commit -- it is a comedy that is simply not funny. The few laughs I had during this film were strained, and several times I contemplated walking out of the living room and just playing The Last of Us or Bioshock Infinite, both far worthier pieces of entertainment and art.

But while being a boring, unfunny comedy is this film's greatest sin, the manner in which it tries to develop its characters isn't far behind. For the first hour, it is clearly established that Melissa McCarthy's character is a completely unrepentant, unbearable, utterly loathsome human being, living the good life on the money that she stole from other people. We want to see her suffer and get thrown in prison. But in the third act, the film suddenly takes a U-turn and gives the woman a sob story designed to get us to feel sorry for her, as though it's a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why she's a criminal. That was the point where I had to force myself to stay in the living room and finish this movie rather than head upstairs and turn on my PlayStation. That third act drama bomb, combined with Bateman's character stealing his repugnant former boss' identity to get some money for gas and a hotel room, made me flat-out angry. After getting us to hate McCarthy's character, we're not only expected to root for Bateman when he does the same thing, but we're also expected to feel for McCarthy as well. This film wants us to root for a pair of criminals whose dickery is portrayed as justified.

Score: 1 out of 5

Bad writing, a broken moral compass, and worst of all, boring jokes make for a terrible movie. The only way I'd recommend watching this movie is by pirating it, as a fitting insult to the people who made it.

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