"Identity Thief" Review: Planes, Trains, and Ribald Fornication
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Identity Thief Review: Planes, Trains, and Ribald Fornication

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | February 8, 2013 | Comments ()


Hollywood produces a lot of terrible comedies -- and make no mistake, Identity Thief is a terrible comedy -- but seldom are we privileged enough to have two so unmistakably gifted and brilliant comedians guide as through these less-than-ideal viewing experiences. Jason Bateman is this generation's best straight man, and the guy delivers wiseacre so exceptionally that his roster of terrible movies are never held against him. If someone is going to accept millions of dollars to make a bad movie, let it be Bateman, who can at least disguise bad writing with hilarious reaction shots.

Meanwhile, Melissa McCarthy is extraordinary. It may be that I'm feeling particularly sympathetic toward McCarthy in light of thas assbag Rex Reed's review of Identity Thief -- where he called her "obnoxious," "obese," and a "tractor-sized" "hippo" -- but she has to be one of the best ad-libbers in comedy. No matter how bad the role -- and hers, as a woman who steals the identity of Jason Bateman's character, Sandy Patterson, is bad -- McCarthy goes all in. The woman doesn't have a shred of shame, and that's too her credit: There's probably six hours of footage sitting on a cutting room floor of McCarthy just talking filthy (if you've seen the end credits sequence with McCarthy from This is 40, you know exactly what I'm talking about). It's hard not to get wrapped up in her enthusiasm, and it's almost enough -- at times -- to make you forget you're watching a miserable comedy that hugs the road-trip formula so tightly, it could probably squeeze blood from its zits.

The high-concept hook here is that an abrasive, cocksure and obnoxious Florida woman -- who cons people out of their social security numbers, steals their identities, and racks up huge debts -- has cost mild-mannered accountant type, Sandy Patterson (Bateman), his job. Through the magic of bad screenwriting, the only way Patterson can recover his job and identity is to fly to Florida, apprehend this woman, and drive her back to Colorado to settle up with local law enforcement.

What Identity Thief really is, however, is a road-trip comedy similar in theory to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Sandy's a straight-laced guy who just wants to get back to his family, he's trapped with an irritating and overly chatty woman whom he doesn't like, they have no money, and they lose their means of transportation several time throughout the film (often because they are being chased by either a bounty hunter or a couple of Florida gangsters who want McCarthy's character dead).

Superficially, it's all fairly generic: There are pit stops in hotels, car accidents, a night in the forest with a snake, a squeamishly hilarious sex scene between McCarthy and a kinky Texan played by Eric Stonestreet, and several bonding moments that ultimately turn Sandy and McCarthy's character into friends. To be sure, there are 10-15 funny moments in the film, and three or four hilariously uproariously sequences, but Identity Thief never gains much traction. There's no momentum to the jokes; it moves with fits and starts, depending upon Bateman and McCarthy's ability to ad lib in a given situation.

Granted, they do make a fun comedy team -- there's plenty of amiable chemistry between Bateman and McCarthy -- and McCarthy even breathes a few authentic moments into the contrived, studio-manufactured shell. Ultimately, however, Identity Thief doesn't amount to much besides what it is: A bad movie punctuated by an occasional laugh. But if you have to watch a bad movie -- and you don't, really -- Bateman and McCarthy at least make it Identity Thief a tolerable one.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • iamjames

    Can you imagine what he thinks of fat Koreans?

    "What else can you expect from a nation weaned on kimchi, a mixture of raw garlic and cabbage buried underground until it rots, dug up from the grave and then served in earthenware pots sold at the Seoul airport as souvenirs?"
    - Rex Reed's 2005 review of Oldboy

  • yocean

    I went in with low to middling expectation and was genuinely entertained. And it was kinda sweet. I kinda got Melissa McCarthy's character though, yes, there was some writing contrivance for making it over-dramatic a bit, but her and Jason Bateman sold it for me.

  • Buck Forty

    Yes, Rex Reed is a meanie/a-hole for calling McCarthy fat. But let us not forget that:
    there are 10-15 funny moments in the film, and three or four hilariously uproariously sequences, but Identity Thief never gains much traction. There’s no momentum to the jokes; it moves with fits and starts, depending upon Bateman and McCarthy’s ability to ad lib in a given situation.
    Bad movies should never be forgiven.

  • duckandcover

    To quote a Jezebel article about Hillary Clinton's au naturale appearance (often attributed to Hillary herself) that reminded me of Rex Reed's attack on Melissa McCarthy: "The bullshit is coming from both sides of the political divide, and the fact that we're still talking about the overemphasis on looks means that too many people still believe that they can pull the "you're ugly" trump card when they don't agree with a woman. You may not agree with a woman, but to criticize her appearance — as opposed to her ideas or actions — isn't doing anyone any favors, least of all you. Insulting a woman's looks when they have nothing to do with the issue at hand implies a lack of comprehension on your part, an inability to engage in high-level thinking. You may think she's ugly, but everyone else thinks you're an idiot."

  • bleujayone

    Dear Rex Reed,

    I'm not really sure of your line of logic regarding your remarks on Melissa McCarthy. I cannot even say it's about her latest movie, Identity Thief, despite said remarks being entombed within your review of the movie, because many of the remarks have absolutely nothing to do with the movie itself or even her ability as an actress. What I got out of it were very cruel insults regarding her physical stature. This would seem to be the equivalent of someone personally attacking you not on your abilities and output as a movie critic and writer (or lack thereof) but instead regarding your homosexuality. Just as one's body fat percentage has no bearing on their acting ability, so too your sexual orientation has no bearing on your skills or relevance in your occupation. That said, you're still a chapped asshole regardless.

    Rather than finding only legitimate reasons to critique a movie such as poor writing, directing or even acting skills, you have decided to go for something that wouldn't change regardless if said film was good or bad. Melissa McCarthy is fat? Oh. Wow. Gee. And it took you until now with your tired and pathetic remarks to point that out, or are you just coming back from getting your cataracts re-done? If this movie is as poor as others have mentioned, going after it for legitimate reasons should have been easier than flipping M-80's at fish in a barrel. To go this route at this quality of target shows a laziness usually reserved for the comatose. And they're not ever well-written insults either. I've heard better verbal slamming by children in the schoolyard who were hopped up on sugar and addled back again with Ritalin. What does it say about your skill as a wordsmith if you can now be out-dueled by someone who has been on this planet for less years than you've been irrelevant?

    Look at it this way Mr. Reed, people are talking about you again. It's not because of a brilliantly written piece on your part, but because you're still washed-up and an all but forgotten douche-geyser who has mistaken being catty and petty for being clever. In the final words of Les Crane's Deteriorata, "Give Up!"

  • e jerry powell

    Or, in cruder terms, "Rex, go suck a bag of dicks, you archaic prune."

  • BWeaves

    "Through the magic of bad screenwriting, the only way Patterson can
    recover his job and identity is to fly to Florida, apprehend this woman,
    and drive her back to Colorado to settle up with local law enforcement."

    Uh, I'm sure in real life HE would be apprehended for kidnapping.

  • e jerry powell

    No logic allowed.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I'm trying to decide how insulting Rex Reed's review is. I think if he'd just called her one - or just said she was obese & obnoxious - that'd be ok. I'm pretty sure the same's been said of Farley. And honestly, it's Farley she reminds me of the most. But for Reed to mention her size EVERY TIME HE MENTIONS her - that seems egregious.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Reed's review contains this line: "Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) is a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success."

    That's just crossing the line. He's an ass.

  • Arran

    It's the tone more than anything. If he'd simply mentioned that she's fat, well, she is. Mentioning that does not automatically make him a meanie. But the repeated mentions and the general tone of nastiness make his intent pretty unmistakeable. "The fatty fat McCarthy is a fatty fat who is fat. She's also loud. And did I mention fat? That's right, fat. So anyway, the fat hippo fats around this fatty movie with her fatness. One star."

  • Drake

    Wait a minute -- Rex Reed is still alive? And WORKING?

  • e jerry powell

    Define "working."

  • Mrs. Julien

    The fact that he is still appalling comes as no surprise however.

  • Mrs. Julien

    road trip...bounty hunter...gangster... What's that? I should watch Midnight Run again? Thank you, voices in my head, that's an excellent suggestion!

  • Fredo

    If only to get the nonstop ads for this movie off my TV screen, I am glad that it is out.

  • Skyler Durden is not logged in

    Rex Reed can eat a dick. Melissa McCarthy is a national goddamn treasure.

    (Side note, though. I had my identity stolen once. It sucked, but it didn't cost me my JOB. Yeesh.)

  • Arran

    Assessments of her talents aside, it just reads like he's saying "I am personally offended that a fat person is in a movie, so I'm going to be a nasty asshole to them". What a gaping fuckhole.

  • e jerry powell

    I can still remember Myra Breckenridge, so Rex Reed can eat shit and bark at the moon.

  • Uriah_Creep

    I'm also old enough to remember Myra Breckinridge, but I'd managed to suppress all memory of it. Thanks a lot, Jerry.

  • e jerry powell

    Sorry, but HE DID IT, so he shouldn't be talking shit about anyone, ever.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I agree that McCarthy is a comedic talent, but last night I saw the preview for The Heat with her and Sandra Bullock and it made me question everything I thought I knew about the woman. As in, she'll take any job she's offered.

  • How many roles do you think someone like her is ever offered? Shit, she's been around Hollywood for ages and only after Bridesmaids came out did she get her due amount of attention. If I were her I'd also bleed my 15 minutes dry, before Hollywood remembers it doesn't like big girls.

  • Arran

    Paul Feig has said it's been getting better scores in test screenings than Bridesmaids did. Though I'm not sure if this is a sign of audiences being stupid or an indication of quality.

  • Robert

    Was it the red band trailer that actually reveals the plot or the green band trailer that looks like a really bad Sandra Bullock action/comedy?

  • lowercase_ryan

    I'm guessing green band as it was before Warm Bodies.

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