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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American Reunion Review (Kirk Haviland)

American Reunion (2012)

Starring Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kay Thomas, John Cho, Natasha Lyonne, Dania Ramirez, Eugene Levy and Jennifer Coolidge.

Written by John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg based on characters created by Adam Herz

Directed by John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg

 

Back in 1999, a bunch of teens took the summer box office by storm with a raunchy little laugh fest called American Pie. The cast were all relative unknowns with a first-time director and first-time writer at the helm. What they managed to produce was not only an over-the-top, no holds barred, bombastic comedy that became a box office smash, but they also created memorable characters with heart and passion that have stood the test of time. After a solid sequel and a not so memorable third, Universal decided to keep the franchise going, without the original cast, with a slew of direct-to-video follow-ups (One very funny film, one okay film and two utter disasters) that ran the series into the ground (especially after the god awful Book of Love). So when the announcement went out that Universal was going to bring back the original gang for another theatrical outing I was excited. But could they really pull off a solid sequel after so much time. And unlike American Wedding could they get EVERYONE back?

American Reunion opens with now married parents Jim and Michelle Levenstein (Biggs and Hannigan) in a funny sequence that shows just how much of a rut having a child has put their love life into (featuring a cameo from Jim’s infamous white sock). We then catch up with Kevin (Nicholas) who has basically become a housewife as his wife makes sure to save shows like The Bachelor and Project Runway so they can watch them together. Kevin is desperate for some time with the guys and has arranged for Jim, Oz and himself to go to the reunion three days earlier to reconnect, minus Stiffler who they fear will ruin things. Next we catch up with Oz (Klein), who has become a minor celebrity due to his being a sportscaster for a local station and having competed in a “Dancing with the Stars” type reality show. He has a model for a girlfriend who is constantly trying to make sure they are keeping their standing in the public eye. Oz turns down a public appearance with Mario Lopez because he really wants to go to his reunion and see the boys. Next up is Stiffler (Scott), who we see barreling through an office building and quickly realize he has not changed or grown up one bit. Not surprisingly things with Stiffler are not all what they seem and he may need the guys more than anyone else. The boys all get to town and meet in front of the bar when low and behold the long lost and nowhere to be found Paul Finch (Thomas) shows up and the group is complete. As the boys swap stories and meet Selena (Ramirez) again, Michelle’s now smoking hot former band geek friend from high school, the Stiffmeister sulks into the bar and see all the guys having a great time. The guys quickly claim they invited him and he must not have got their messages and Stiffler is so happy to see the crew together again that he lets them believe he buys it and proceeds to get everyone smashed. From here on in the same old crazy antics are back and the boys are in for another wild weekend in East Great Falls.

All the old characters show up as Vicky and Heather (Reid and Suvari) confuse the issue when their appearances stir up old feelings in their exes Kevin and Oz. We also find out that Jim’s mom has passed three years earlier and Jim’s Dad (the always brilliant Levy) is still having a hard time with it. John Cho returns in a bigger role than he had in either of the first two films, yet still billed as Milf Guy #2. Natasha Lyonne is unfortunately relegated to a small cameo, but with the amount of characters already added this works fine. We also get similar cameos from other favorite characters from the first films I will not ruin here. There is a sub-plot revolving around a now teenage girl who Jim used to babysit as a child and how she is determined to have Jim help her “celebrate” her 18th birthday.  This leads to a very funny house invasion set piece, a feud, and of course more marital problems once Michelle inevitably finds out.

American Reunion is just the perfect mix of nostalgia, raunchiness and genuine laughs that you would hope it would be. Writer/Directors Hurwitz and Schlossberg bring the same sensibilities from their other creation Harold and Kumar (explaining the more extended use of Cho) to the American Pie gang and it works beautifully. There are real heartwarming scenes in here, especially with Jim and his Dad, that elevate this film and really make you appreciate getting to see these characters after a nine year absence. For fans of this series it’s really satisfying to see this reunion take place and feels right to be able to see how these characters have matured and grown up since we last saw them.

The ending of the film leaves a definite possibility for more in the series, and after they rebooted the Fast and Furious series so successfully I’m sure Universal had this in mind when the project started. As long as we can expect more films like this and less like “Wedding” and the other poor sequels, I will gladly line up to see what further antics Jim, Stiffler and boys get up to.

 

Til Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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