Movie Review – Identity Thief (2013)

Director: Seth Gordon

Stars: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, John Cho, Robert Patrick, Jon Favreau

Sandy Patterson (Bateman) is expecting another child, has a new job to look forward to with a better salary and can begin to plan to move into a bigger house. However, notSandy Patterson (McCarthy) is buying boats, massage chairs, getting expensive makeovers and spending all of Sandy’s money, and she’s also in trouble with some drug dealers. After Sandy gets arrested and finds out that someone has stolen his identity he drives down to Florida to apprehend the criminal and bring them back to Denver in the hopes that he’ll be able to save his job and redeem his name. 

Identity Thief is one of the worst films I’ve seen in a while. It’s complete garbage and I’ll tell you why. First of all it’s a comedy yet I only mildly chuckled a few times during the film. Granted, there’s some comic potential in the concept but the execution is woeful. In my opinion identity theft is one of the worst crimes imaginable. Stealing possessions is one thing but stealing someone’s identity…that’s just mind-boggling and it’s completely inexcusable. I’m surprised at how cavalier the authorities are when dealing with it since it can completely wreck a person’s life. A lot of our standing in society is wrapped up in licenses and we’re always asked to give proof of our identity. Simply existing isn’t enough, we always need to prove ourselves with official documents and if someone can forge those…it’s utterly reprehensible behavior and yet notSandy is almost painted as a sympathetic character.

I found her to be one of the most infuriating and frustrating characters that I’ve ever seen. She’s selfish and narcissistic and has now comprehension of how malicious and evil she is. One of her main actions in the film is punching people in the throat, and she physically attacks Sandy more than once, and then plays the victim card if he’s ever hostile to her. At one point Sandy calls her a sociopath and I think that’s an accurate assessment. She continually makes up stories to play on people’s emotions and then takes advantage of them. Even when Sandy gives her a chance she abuses that trust, and the whole character is just annoying to the point that it ruins any chance the film had for comedic values.

The worst thing is that the film tries to humanize her by giving her a sob story towards the end. Boo-freaking-hoo. I’m a bit tired of this trend where apparently if you have a bad upbringing you’re allowed to do whatever you want. No. It doesn’t work like that. What she did was awful, and we see towards the beginning that Sandy wasn’t the only victim, well, he may have been the first but he came across her stash of other identities so she was at least planning to commit more crimes.

Another huge problem is that they commit the same crime against Sandy’s boss (Favreau), who is actually only in the film for a few minutes at the beginning and is shown to be an asshole. The only reason he appears in the script is to give a small shred of justification to Sandy and notSandy’s later actions, apparently fraud is justified as long as you have a grudge against the person you’re doing it to. The fact that Favreau had such a small role shows that he was inserted just for the sake of this plot point, because if he had been a nice boss it would have created a huge problem with the story, but the fact that he’s an asshole shouldn’t excuse the crime, and up until that point the only redeeming feature had been Bateman’s portrayal of the nice guy struggling to deal with what has happened to him, but after that his character lost credibility and it became difficult to root for him.

Of course then the end comes and (spoiler alert) THEY FORGIVE HER. What the frak? They actually welcome her into their home. Are you kidding me? Okay, so Sandy has spent a few days on the road so maybe he’s formed a bond, but are you telling me his wife is really going to be okay with her staying with them? Who’s to say she’s not going to grab some more information while she’s there? It’s idiotic behavior and the film had lost me by this point. Any concern I had for the characters was blown away. Now, I’m not completely heartless and what notSandy went though (if that indeed was the truth) is something that is sad, but that doesn’t excuse her behavior and it doesn’t give her a free pass, and I’m struggling to recall a moment where she actually gave a thought-out, heartfelt apology. 

There’s also a plot of Sandy and notSandy being chased by a debt collector (who is more like a bounty hunter) and some minions of an imprisoned drug lord, but this is just to add a sense of tension to the film and to have some bad guys that are more dangerous than notSandy.

I will say this however, there were some nice action set pieces and the highlight of the film was the car chase, but that’s about the only good thing I have to say. Complete and utter mindless garbage with an awful message and it commits the unforgivable sin for a comedy – it’s simply not funny.  

 

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