More noise than signal

Identity Thief

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

Sandy (Jason Bateman) is a mild mannered middle manager by day, but by night transforms into a mild mannered loving family man. All in all, a thoroughly nice guy, and one truly undeserving of having his identity stolen by Melissa McCarthy’s malicious Miami malcontent Diana, who goes on to empty Sandy’s bank account and credit cards. What a rotter.

It couldn’t come at a worse time, as he’s in the middle of changing jobs and the catastrophic black hole his credit rating has now entered threatens his career. The police are sympathetic, but explain that they can only investigate offences committed in Sandy’s native Denver and can’t advise their Miami colleagues to look into this for presumably very good reasons that we don’t need to worry our pretty little heads about.

This despite knowing where Diana is going to be, via conveniently efficient and resourceful beauty parlour receptionist finding out his phone number and calling Sandy to confirm fake-Sandy Diana’s appointment. A desperate plan is hatched, as Sandy decides to head south with the last of his money, apprehend Diana and drag her back to Denver whereupon she can be arrested, Sandy’s name can be cleared and life can return to normal.

Simple! Or not so simple, as while finding Diana isn’t hard, holding on to her is, thanks to her proficiency in throat-punching. As you would expect from a comedy, things start snowballing in ridiculous fashion in short order, especially when Robert Patrick’s bail-bond jumper bounty hunter and a gang bosses’ two enforcers also wind up on the hunt for Diana, for reasons that are again largely glossed over but serve to cause obstacles for our protagonists to overcome while bringing them to a better understanding and respect for each other.

If all of this sounds like an excuse for a loosely plotted road trip with arbitrary zany situations, well, you’re not wrong. However no-one’s watching this for the story or character development, so let’s not focus too heavily on how generic those aspects are in this film. Although they are.

Like all comedies the only remotely relevant criteria for judging is how funny it is. So how funny is it? It is adequately funny.

Oh, you want more detail? Well, the genericism in the plot and characters for the most part runs through the situations that Bateman and McCarthy find themselves in, and by themselves aren’t all that inherently amusing. Its saving grace is that the situations are populated by Bateman and McCarthy, and McCarthy’s gift for improvisation and Bateman’s continually under-rated talent as a straight man means that they salvage a lot of the scenes quite handily.

Now, I wouldn’t be recommending that anyone immediately stop what they’re doing and rush out and see this, but I seen far worse comedies that have amused me less and not felt as though I need to bring action under the Description of Goods act, so I’d be content to give this a mild recommendation to anyone in the market for an undemanding comedy.

However, until I sat down to cobble this together I had paid no attention to two things: critical reception and box office. The former is torrentially negative, the latter Scrooge-McDuck-Coin-filled-swimming-pool positive. Now, for once, I’d go with the box office being a better bellwether for your likely enjoyment of the film. Sense of humour is a particularly difficult thing to judge, especially when you’ve only got your own twisted personality to go by. Given the amount of cash this has raked in, it seems to be in tune with a broad enough range of twisted personalities that statistics tell us you’ll probably enjoy it.

So, who are you going to trust – cynical bastard critics like me, or the incontestable might of statistics?