By Mark Saldana
Rating: 1.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Midnight Run and Planes, Trains & Automobiles are two movies which got it right. More recently, Due Date and Identity Thief both fail in their attempts. Road trip movies, where either enemies bond and become friends or opposites attract, go way back in cinematic history. The oldest and probably most celebrated film of this kind, Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night, won several major Academy Awards in 1935, including Best Picture. So, here we are seventy-eight years and several similar films later, and the question that came to mind when I first watched the trailer to this movie is, “Do we really need another road trip/screwball comedy?” While the answer is no, at least if this movie had a descent script with funny comedy, then I would have given it a more favorable review. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Identity Thief suffers from a terrible script which wastes the comedic talents of both Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, two actors with mostly great previous work.
The story and plot have the usual basic elements of the screwball road trip comedy. In this latest version, the straight-man comes in the form of Sandy Patterson, a nice husband and father with a modestly successful career. Enter the foil–the supposedly hilarious, quirky and sometimes bizarre trip companion, Diana. Sandy’s life gets totally upended when Diana, an obviously troubled lady, steals his identity and makes loads of costly, and sometimes ridiculous, purchases with his money and his credit. With his business and personal life in jeopardy, Sandy travels to apprehend Diana and bring her home to clear his name; and the rest is supposed to be comedy.
Well, the problem here, as with Due Date, is most of the comedy does not work. The filmmakers’ reliance on excessive slapstick, physical comedy and obesity gags wear out their welcome early in the film. In fact some of the more humorous moments, the few in the movie, have already been revealed in the movie’s trailers and promos. The screenplay by Craig Mazin, based on a story by Mazin and Jerry Eeten, has so little to offer when it comes to funny comic material. The plot alone feels like a rehash of loads of other similar road trip movies. I do appreciate that the writers attempt to develop the Diana character as real person with real problems and feelings late in the story. However, because she starts out as an annoying and ridiculous caricature in the beginning, it truly is difficult to buy the whole transformation.
I really like Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, but as I stated above, this movie tragically squanders their talents. To her credit, McCarthy does pull off the more dramatic scenes, but it’s so painful to watch her embrace the garish caricature. Bateman has very little to do, but look and act flustered and bewildered. He portrays a likable character, but one rehashed from previous movies of this kind. The movie also stars Genesis Rodriguez and T.I. as two mob hit-people looking to take Diana out. In these roles, a similar problem exists. T.I. has so little to do, except look thuggish and Genesis goes over-the-top with her Spanish accent and Latina mannerisms. In other words, she embraces a racially stereotypical caricature which is highly unbecoming of the lovely actress.
So judging from my low rating at the top of this review/list of grievances, one already knows that I cannot recommend this film at all. It really is not worth one’s time or money. I will admit that I did laugh in a few scenes, and that it is not the worst piece of junk I have ever watched, but why bother spending top dollar for an annoying and frustrating 111 minutes? Some of my critic colleagues actually walked out of the screening. I stayed and endured the whole movie, but don’t suggest others do the same.