Identity Thief Review (Kirk Haviland)

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Identity Thief (2013)

Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Genesis Rodriguez, Morris Chestnut, John Cho, Robert Patrick, Eric Stonestreet

Written by Craig Mazin based on a story by Jerry Eeten and Craig Mazin

Directed by Seth Gordon

The doldrums of the winter post-Oscar bait box office continue this week as after a very lackluster January our friends at Universal Pictures give us Identity Thief. This comedy is the follow-up feature from McCarthy after her breakout role in 2010’s Bridesmaids (This is 40 cameo notwithstanding) and her first shot at a lead performance. Along for the ride is Jason Bateman playing his very familiar bland straight man role and Amanda Peet as his long suffering wife.

Diana (McCarthy) makes her living assuming stranger’s identities and bleeding them dry. Her seemingly unlimited funds have allowed Diana to party and shop it up on the outskirts of Orlando, where her house looks like a Shopping Channel storage warehouse.  But her new identity comes with a catch, it belongs to an accounts rep (Bateman), Sandy, who lives halfway across the U.S., and Sandy has been tipped off as to where she lives. With only one week to hunt down the con artist before he loses his job and livelihood, the real Sandy Bigelow Patterson heads south to confront the woman with an all-access pass to his life.  And as he attempts to bribe, coax and wrangle her 2,000 miles to Denver, one easy target will discover just how tough it is to get your name back. And let’s not forget the Skiptracer (Patrick) and Mob enforcers (Harris and Rodriguez) following and tracking their every move.

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Identity Thief is a very poorly executed movie in many regards. The script here is extremely lazy, think of the worst possible rehash of Midnight Run you’ve seen and this is worse. The gags are tired and lazy and the dialogue is terrible. The plot device as to why the pair is forced to drive instead of fly is ludicrous and makes no sense. The fact that Diana and all her many fake ID’s can’t fly because her ID is the same as Sandy’s, when she can simply make another ID and actually does so later in the film, is just mediocre writing at best. Writer Mazan’s previous efforts include the lackluster Hangover 2, Scary Movies 3 and 4 (the UN-funny ones) and the abysmal Superhero Movie so the lack of ingenuity shown here should come as little surprise. But Mazin can’t be held solely responsible for this effort.

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Director Gordon has done some excellent work on television and in the world of documentaries but his feature length fiction films have left something to be desired. With Horrible Bosses being his most respectable, Identity Thief may even be worse than his other, badly executed holiday film: Four Christmases. Watching the film it would appear the film just got away from him and he let McCarthy run rampant without any guidance or attempt to reel her in. McCarthy is probably the best part of the film, managing to elicit a few laughs along the way in what were likely her variances from the script. But a lot of the time she seems to be throwing everything she can on screen just to try and make something stick. Based on Bateman’s performance you would expect him to turn directly straight to camera at some point and say “Hey, it’s a paycheck” before returning to whatever line he is delivering next. Peet is fine here, but is really given nothing to do. The rest of the roles are merely extended cameos with wasted performances especially from the talented likes of Favreau, Stonestreet and Cho.

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Perhaps the biggest problem I have with the film is how offensive it gets towards the end. In one sequence that I’m sure is meant to be humorous, McCarthy’s Diana tries to explain to Peet’s character that nothing happened between her and Sandy on the road. But what ensues is McCarthy going on and on about how irresistible she is and the audiences and Peet’s Trish are supposed to be laughing because of course a fat person can’t be sexy right? Similar subject matter was handled with class and hilarity in Bridesmaids but that is sadly lacking here.

There may have been a good movie to be had with this premise, but Identity Thief sadly is not that film. Audiences will likely have to wait for McCarthy’s turn in director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids) next film The Heat and Batemen’s long awaited return to the role of Michael Bluth from Arrested Development to get the laughter they were hoping to get out of this film. The amount of talent on screen is hampered by a poor script and some spotty direction that drags everyone down. Identity Thief is not recommended.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Disconnect Review (Dustin SanVido)

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Disconnect (2012)

Starring Jason Bateman, Paula Patton, Frank Grillo, Hope Davis, Max Theriot, Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Nyqvist, Colin Ford, Andrea Riseborough and Jonah Bobo

Written by Andrew Stern

Directed by Henry Alex Rubin

The subject of social media and its positive and negative effects have never been explored successfully on film with the exception of The Social Network presenting a more focused and loosely based biography of Mark Zuckerberg. While I did enjoy The Social Network for its decision to tell the story of the creation of Facebook as a pseudo-super-villain’s rise to power, 2010’s lackluster Catfish is the only other ‘social-network’ film that comes to mind. Like Catfish, Disconnect is a story of the negative effects and darker side of social media, told through the course of three separate storylines that begin to intersect in a similar mold and structure of the Academy Award winning Crash. I did like Disconnect for its message, acting, and most of the story, but an underwhelming climax stopped all forward momentum which had been building rather splendidly for the majority of the film.

The three stories in Disconnect are that of a still-grieving couple (Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgard) who must deal with online identity-theft, a news journalist (Andrea Riseborough) writing a story involving the online sexual exploitation of a group of youths, and a high-school outcast (Jonah Bobo) who is cyber-bullied and the severe ramifications that echo through the family of the victim (Jason Bateman and Hope Davis) and that of the bully’s (Frank Grillo). These three storylines are so well-crafted and spend ample time developing so many characters, one might presume the story could feel a bit bloated. Thankfully that’s not the case, as Rubin shifts seamlessly from thread to thread allowing all of the actors’ individual moments to really get the point of the film across: as technology advances more and more our lives become more online-dependent and thus, some of our humanity is lost in the process and the growing isolation we feel in today’s society leaves us disconnected from one another.

The acting is the real standout of Disconnect. All of the actors give fantastic performances that help drive the narrative and really pull you into the turmoil, sadness, frustration and anger that permeates throughout the script. Frank Grillo and Paula Patton are the best of the bunch, turning in career best performances as struggling parents, broken in their own individual ways, and are by far the standouts of the film. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Alexander Skarsgard has also delivered a career performance here, much like his memorable turn as Model #3 from Zoolander. All joking aside, there are zero weak points to this film from an acting stand-point, and one can’t help but be fully invested in the well-being of every character represented, good or bad. I applaud Rubin for getting the most out of his actors and delivering a technically proficient look into unexplored subject matter, albeit with one small caveat.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

So much of Disconnect hinges on the climax where all of the interwoven stories CRASH into one another, and this is where the film regrettably comes up short. Due to the emotional moments that escalate toward the third act of the film, unlike Crash, the end resolutions just can’t deliver on the strong buildup that preceded it. I won’t spoil any of them, but they’re just so pedestrian and safe that the tension and suspense drawing out lands with a thud. This may have been a decision by the writers to keep the film from becoming a bleak and depressing vantage point from which to view the social media world, but if you’re going to send a bus full of children careening off a cliff-side with no hope of survival, I’d rather the bus hit the ground and explode than become caught in a large tree leaving the children to look at one another and think “aw shucks”. A poor choice of analogy, perhaps. But in the case of Disconnect, I’d say a poor choice of ending.

I still enjoyed the film quite a bit, but I would’ve lauded the filmmaker if he had been daring enough to go all the way with what his script was driving towards. In the end we’re left with an almost-great and very insightful look into the darker side of social media that stumbles slightly at the end, and as a result is ultimately satisfying.

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