Director: Seth Gordon (King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters, Horrible Bosses)
Screenplay: Craig Mazin
Story: Jerry Eeten and Craig Mazin
Starring (voices): Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, T.I., John Cho
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 112 min
Mainstream comedy is in a terrible rut. Last year offered less than a handful of watchable genre entries, and those worth taking away from that bunch were even more scarce. So far, 2013 hasn’t tried its hardest to offer something fresh, or even slightly humorous, to push things in the right direction. After the year’s first two comedy offerings, Move 43 and A Haunted House, Seth Gordon’s Identity Thief might look like a fresh breather. In fact, while the film is not as repulsive as most recent comedy films, Identity Thief is just as repugnant we have come to expect from the genre in 2013.
In 2011, Seth Gordon offered an original, albeit not entirely effective concept to the big screen with Horrible Bosses. While the film was mostly poor, it came with its share of humor that didn’t feel completely forced. The same might be able to be said for Identity Thief, but those rare flashes of genuine laughter are even more scarce this time around. The film is filled to the brim with unoriginal jokes, along with those coveted moments of unnecessary raunch to try and satisfy pervy high school freshmen.
Something really needs to be done with Jason Bateman. His straight man schtick worked exceptionally for the three seasons of the cult comedy program “Arrested Development,” but the stock in his ability to offer anything interesting has been quickly dwindling since the show wrapped up its third season in 2006. Since then, Bateman has offered the same role in dozens of films, from over the top, disgusting R-rated humor to romantic comedies so run of the mill that they stunt brain growth. In fact, the rare time Bateman has been able to find himself in something memorable, the lasting value of the project is almost never attributed to his contribution. With Identity Thief, Bateman does nothing to change his type casting, once again playing a Michael Bluth-esque character, although one that is even more dull than the last. Identity Thief is merely a tool in the further exposition that Bateman is less talented than he is given credit for, but rather a one-trick pony who has fooled fans with one beloved role.
Melissa McCarthy is finally given her first starring role since her breakout performance in Bridesmaids. It seems as though McCarthy is going the same way of similar wildcard performer Zach Galifianakis, breaking out with one loveable role, only to flail into a string of watered down, repeat interpretations of that one character. McCarthy’s turn in Identity Thief offers some surprising dramatic moments from the actress, posing the possibility that she may not always have to play a rehash of a rehash, but those rare moments are so buried in try-hard humor that they will likely get overlooked by the casual viewer.
Identity Thief is not here to change your mind on mainstream comedy. Surely the film will go on to make hundreds of people laugh, but most of the jokes here are some real lowest common denominator stuff. If Due Date did anything for you back in 2010 (did it really though?), then maybe you will find something to take away from 2013’s worse interpretation of the road trip/buddy comedy formula. Outside of that, Identity Thief is worth avoiding at almost all costs. It’s disappointing to see performers who had once offered something highly entertaining to be reduced to this, but Identity Thief really can’t come as much of a surprise at this point.