Hollywood has embraced R-rated star vehicles as a new trend. Studio executives figure they can recycle any old script and make it fresh by adding a couple of big names to the marquee.
Sometimes it works. “21 Jump Street,” with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, is a great example of a reboot done right. However, sometimes it doesn’t.
Universal Pictures hedged its bets on Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman as the two leads in “Identity Thief,” their “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” rip-off. If the box office is any indication, they put their money on the right horse. But does that mean the audience should for OK when they could have so much better?
The movie follows Sandy, a mild-mannered Denver businessman whose identity is stolen by Diana, a single woman in Florida whose credit-card maker and victim list is ready to go. When Diana (as Sandy) misses a court date, and the real Sandy’s life is ruined as cops search his office for drugs, Sandy flies to Florida to bring Diana in. But, as usual with any other odd-couple-style movie, things don’t go according to plan.
Karsten Burgstahler: “Identity Thief” could have been great. Bateman is among my favorite actors — I’m an “Arrested Development” nut. It’s not that I dislike Melissa McCarthy. I know she can be funny when she’s given the right dialogue, and she certainly commands attention with her boisterous attitude. However, I fear she’ll become complacent the more she plays the same character she made popular in “Bridesmaids.” If the trailer for this summer’s “The Heat” is any indication, she will continue to cash in on the character. McCarthy lets that persona breathe a bit with her leading role here, and that helps her flesh out the character better. But “Identity Thief” seriously lacks big laughs, and it’s clear she’s just trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Austin Flynn: I thoroughly enjoyed the film’s acting, and its jokes made the experience more than worth it even though I wasn’t laughing every other minute. The Bateman-McCarthy combination is smart and gives way to some great on-screen chemistry. However, my biggest complaint is the movie’s pacing. For example, Sandy shares a heart-to-heart with his wife in their Denver home, and then the plot leaps to Florida and then again to a car accident between Sandy and Diana. Scenes such as this don’t seem to connect smoothly, and I found myself piecing together plot elements that should have been explained. Maybe there would have been more opportunities for character development if the writers took the time to flesh some jumps out
KB: You’re completely right about the film’s pacing issues, but it’s not just the scene-to-scene transitions. The film shifts gears often — it is a comedy at one moment, but it is a drama the very next. The screenwriters wanted to drum up sympathy for Diana, but not enough time is dedicated to her emotions to justify the shifts. However, McCarthy plays the dramatic scenes well enough to save the writing. Bateman simply stands there and lets all hell break loose, and the best scenes definitely come from the dynamic between the two. These two could have really brought laughs home with fresher material. Alas, they are stuck in a dead-end script, and I just kept waiting for some better material that never came.
AF: I couldn’t agree more. The emotional scenes seemed extremely out of place at times and were the only aspect that slowed the film to a screeching halt. I didn’t mind the slower pace. I just didn’t want it in consistent scenes as McCarthy cried. The emotional breakdowns got old after her first two, and they almost seemed as if the writer felt obligated to include them. Overall, I would agree with you and blame most of the movie’s problems on the writing and flow rather than the actors’ performances. I feel like I would have been better off renting this movie from Redbox to watch on a rainy day instead of paying ticket price to see it on the big screen. If you’re going to see this movie for McCarthy or Bateman, this is the movie for you. If not, save your money and see “A Good Day to Die Hard” on Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart.
1hr 51min - Rated R - Comedy