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‘Identity Thief’ leaves viewers wanting more

March 7, 2013

With plenty of slapstick and some hit and miss jokes, “Identity Thief” comes to town and steals a few laughs, but leaves potential that could have been found.

Nab someone’s identity and credit card info, buy a waffle maker and a new car, and party your butt off at the nearby bar; that is a normal day in the life of identity thief Diana (Melissa McCarthy). Play with the kids, go to work and try your hardest to get the bonus on your paycheck that you have been waiting three years for; that is a normal day for business man Sandy Paterson (Jason Bateman).

Identity Thief stars Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.
“Identity Thief” stars Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.

The everyday lives of this con-woman and working man are about to change. After a case of stolen identity sends Sandy going across the land to hunt down Diana and clear his name of all the infidelities and the overcharged credit card Diana has incurred.

But getting Diana back to Denver will prove challenging as Diana’s past actions are catching up. Now Sandy and Diana will need to work together and learn together if they are going to get back to Denver to clear Sandy’s name, but not unless Diana’s greed and personal problems get in the way first.

Reviewing comedies poses a challenge in my case. Since humor is such a subjective thing, it can seem shallow and pretentious to say that something is not funny. After all, everybody has their own different tastes when it comes to comedy: some people like constant slapstick, some get a kick out of characters’ banter, and some enjoy the sweet sounds of farts and yelling loudly.

Now, I do not find any of these tastes wrong; they can all shine brightly and make you roll on the floor with laughter, but certain aspects of the humor I think make it either artful or low brow like wit, cleverness, and even inserting well done satire and parody can be good. It is those aspects, that can be done well and badly, that go into critiquing humor and comedies. “Identity Thief” treads that line between funny and not funny that leans more toward the unfunny, but by the end I still feel that it can be enjoyed by some.

The main characters of Sandy and Diana have an OK on-screen relationship, thankfully not taking the relationship anywhere romantic, but to some comedic and awkward moments that make it feel like you’re watching your aunt Shari go on a wild, half-drunk binge. But, they get by well enough (with some of the best moments involving them making lies about each other), and so does the plot, which is easy enough to follow from Florida, to Georgia and to Colorado.

But as I was to make a case of before, the humor makes the movie a bittersweet experience. While I can appreciate the bouncing fun and charm of McCarthy, the movie could have used more jokes and more creative writing. Sure, there is plenty of slapstick and a good amount of interaction between characters, but there were places where it felt slow and uninspired, like anyone could have just written the jokes and thrown them in this movie based on what people usually like.

Do not get me wrong, there were a few funny bits, but none that really told me that this was a special comedy. It all gave off the stank of lost potential. Potential is not lost on the humor’s side, though. The movies so called “villains” are so small time and unmemorable that it really makes you realize that the producers added them for conflict and not much else.

A lot was lost in this movie that cannot be reclaimed, and it makes me think that there could have been more to it than just slapstick and talking with a few funny jokes. If you are into this kind of stuff, then I would say “Identity Thief” is good enough for a laugh. But, if you’re looking for non-stop comedy, you’re looking at the wrong movie.

Ryan Funes is a lover of all things movie, TV, video games and stories and wants to become a television writer someday. In his spare time he enjoys hanging with friends, tapping into his imagination, and watching cartoons of all kinds.