From director Seth Gordon, comes the latest in his ever-expanding filmography of comedies. Ever since his supremely handled documentary beginnings in King of Kong, his work has become more mainstream and far less entertaining bouncing from the risible Four Christmases to the annoying Horrible Bosses and now to his latest offering, Identity Thief.
While attempting to buy gas, Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) discovers his card is declined. After a series of unusual occurrences, he discovers his identity has been stolen by a woman called Diana (Melissa McCarthy) in Florida. Frustrated by the lack of action taken by the authorities, Sandy chooses to track down the woman himself to reclaim his identity. He is unaware however that a bounty hunter called Skiptracer (Robert Patrick) is also out to claim the large bounty on Diana’s head.
Initially a chase film, Identity Thief quickly becomes a buddy road film in the ilk of Due Date or Planes, Trains and Automobiles. More like the former in terms of chemistry of the lead duo, it quickly becomes apparent that both Bateman and McCarthy are horribly miscast in this nasty-spirited ˜comedy.’ Bateman’s working schlub is not nearly likable enough to root for, while McCarthy’s obnoxious, annoying and downright weird identity thief is as unbearable to watch as any character created in recent years.
High concept comedy films like Identity Thief rely on the comedy of the bizarre situation to maintain their momentum and to gauge their quality. In this regard, the film is a stunning failure with so few laughs littering the inane slapstick comedy and annoying character traits that it quickly becomes a chore to watch. It’s also given a higher classification to allow the cast to swear and act violently toward each other, although this proves just as relentlessly dull as the talking.
It seems a long time since John Hughes produced comedies of sentimentality and heart. They may have been a little predictable and cheesy, but at least there were characters in the film whose company we enjoyed. Identity Thief, like Horrible Bossess and Due Date before it can draw its influence from The Hangover, which has come to define a generation of comedies with nasty characters, being mean to each other and not even having the good grace to be funny with it. Time for Seth Gordon to go back to documentaries.