Identity Thief


Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy see the critics approaching with torchs and pitchforks.

Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy see the critics approaching with torchs and pitchforks.

(2013) Comedy (Universal) Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, Genesis Rodriguez, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Jon Favreau, Morris Chestnut, John Cho, Robert Patrick, Eric Stonestreet, Brett Baker, Ron Falcone, Matthew Burke, Angelyn Pass, Lori Beth Edgeman. Directed by Seth Gordon

Identity theft is a big problem in the digital age. When someone is able to get your personal information, they are literally able to steal your identity, getting into your bank accounts and credit cards, able to ruin your credit and sometimes your good name (by committing crimes under your “name”). They are very difficult to catch and often can go from one identity to the next, spreading chaos and destruction in their wake

Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Bateman) is finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. He’s been working for the most despicable boss (Favreau) in history, but a group of fed-up employees have defected taking their clients with them, opening up a new well-financed company and his friend Daniel Casey (Cho) who is the president of the new company, has offered him a VP position there.

That couldn’t have come at a better time. Sandy’s wife Trish (Peet) is expecting their third child, they’ve been just able to keep their head above water financially and the increase in salary is just what they need to get back on their feet.

But then Sandy’s credit card is declined at a gas station which is puzzling; he only uses the card for gas and coffee and there should have been plenty of credit available. Then he’s pulled over and arrested for failing to appear at a court date in Winter Park, Florida.

The problem is that Sandy lives in Denver, Colorado and has never been to Florida. A mug shot from the Winter Park police is enough to clear up the matter but then the last straw is when the cops show up again at Sandy’s new job looking for evidence of drugs, once again because of a charge in Winter Park, Florida.

With Sandy’s job teetering on the brink, he knows that this identity thief must be stopped. However, the Denver cops can’t go chasing off to Florida and the Winter Park police aren’t really looking for the culprit. So Sandy heads down to pick up his tormentor himself. Turns out that the identity thief is a woman, whose name may or may not be Diana (McCarthy) – it’s hard to say because she uses so many different names but we’ll call her Diana just to make things relatively easy.

Of course Sandy finds her right away (take that, WPPD!) and at first she’s understandably reluctant to go – in fact she downright refuses. But when a couple of thugs (Rodriguez and Harris) break in with the intent to do some serious bodily harm (read as kill) to Diana and anybody unfortunate enough to be in her company at the time, she changes her attitude real fast.

However, the thugs aren’t the only ones on her tail as a grizzled skip tracer (Patrick) and the cops are on their tails. While Sandy and Diana are initially wary of each other, they’ll need to rely on each other to make it to Denver in one piece if at all.

Seth Gordon has directed some pretty good films up to now, including the wonderful documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and the terrific comedy Horrible Bosses. He’s actually been associated with a lot of decent movies up to now; unfortunately this one isn’t up to their standards.

Part of my issue with it is that it’s not very funny – it’s one of those comedies whose best moments can be found in the trailer. It’s also not the way I’d have gone with a topical subject like identity theft. It’s a road buddy movie that really could have used any sort of circumstance; unfortunately the writers tended to throw logic and reality out the window. So much of the character’s actions don’t make sense but serve as plot contrivances. There is some lazy writing going on here.

Bateman is one of my favorite comic actors working right now. He is such a likable guy that you root for him in every picture he’s in. Yeah, I know that his characters tend to be pretty similar but then that’s true of nearly every actor – few go bouncing around into disparate roles. Hollywood likes to keep its stars compartmentalized. Still, Bateman does what he does (the annoyed and put-upon nice guy) better than anyone. He’s more of a straight man.

McCarthy is taking a lead role for the first time in a feature film and she acquits herself pretty well. She’s a fearless comedienne, allowing herself to look like a cartoon character if it’s for the good of the project. She’s given a lot of physical humor to do and she does it pretty well (she’s hit by a car at one point and pops up like a bobblehead from hell) and she has a couple of dramatic scenes which she hits out of the park, to quote Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly.

I think that the slapstick is a miscalculation. Diana is portrayed as being street-smart more than clever and that’s a mistake as well. She’s so flamboyant and foolish that you can’t see her not getting caught in ten minutes flat. Her character would have benefitted from being a little bit smarter than those around her and you never get that sense.

Diana was originally written to be a male part but Bateman insisted on rewriting it for McCarthy which was a brilliant move on his part – she and he are the best things about the movie and their chemistry is undeniable. I’d love to see them work together with some better material to work with. This could easily have been a bad film but it’s just on this side of recommendable thanks to the talents and likability of its stars.

An aside to Rex Reed and those criticizing Ms. McCarthy because of her size; while there are a couple of jokes that refer to it and I’m sure she is well able to defend herself, taking shots at an actor for their looks is unprofessional and pathetic. They may be public figures but they’re people too.

REASONS TO GO: Bateman is always worth seeing. McCarthy is endearing in places.

REASONS TO STAY: A case of talented comic actors not given a whole lot to work with.

FAMILY VALUES:  There’s some pretty sexual humor, a big bad dose of bad language and obscene gestures as well as a bit of violence, mostly of the slapstick variety.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: During the road trip every car after the original rental had a crushed can of Red Bull on the dashboard.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/17/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 24% positive reviews. Metacritic: 35/100; the reviews are awfully putrid.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Midnight Run

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: Side Effects

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Just Wright


Just Wright

Common finds that dribbling through traffic might be easier than acting.

(2010) Romantic Comedy (Fox Searchlight) Queen Latifah, Common, Paula Patton, Phylicia Rashad, Pam Grier, James Pickens Jr., Mehcad Brooks, Michael Landes, Laz Alonso, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Bobby Simmons.  Directed by Sanaa Hamri

We all look for someone who will be the perfect mate. Whether it is a Mr. or a Ms. we hold every potential suitor up to a rigorous standard that insures that the one we end up with is neither too good to be true or not good enough, but is just right.

Leslie Wright (Latifah) is a physical therapist and a good one. She’s also a New Jersey Nets fan and a good one. She goes to most of the games to cheer her boys in blue on, along with her best friend and “godsister” Morgan Alexander (Patton), who goes to the games for quite a different reason – to snare herself an NBA husband. The lifestyle appeals to her.

At a gas station Leslie meets Scott McKnight (Common), the star guard of the Nets who is having issues finding his gas cap. Grateful for the guidance, he invites her to his birthday party (which is of course the quickest way to an NBA star’s heart – through his car). Of course, Leslie brings Morgan along who quickly snares McKnight with her little black dress and pretty face.

Leslie has also fallen for the handsome and sweet-natured ball star, but as usual she plays second fiddle to her more attractive, less plus-sized friend. However when McKnight suffers a career-threatening knee injury at the NBA All-Star game, it is up to Leslie to rehabilitate him under the watchful eye of his over-protective mom (Rashad) – and without the help of Morgan who has no desire to be the wife of an ex-NBA star.

This is as formulaic a rom-com as you’re likely to find, and there are plenty of ‘em out there. It does have the added advantage of Latifah who is as likable a star as there is today. In Last Holiday she showed me she can carry a movie on her charm alone. In this one, she doesn’t quite accomplish it. To be fair, she doesn’t have much to work with. Leslie is as written almost bland. Hamri fails to utilize the charm of one of Hollywood’s most charming actresses and that’s a crying shame.

It’s obvious that the NBA supported the movie as many of their stars cameo in the film. None of them are especially graceful in the acting department, although they are smooth and fluid on the hardwood. Patton is a terrific actress, but her character is soooo shallow it beggars belief. She’s supposed to be a decent, good person that in the end loves her friend and yet she stabs her in the back at nearly every opportunity. Does. Not. Compute.

Everything that is wrong with the modern romantic comedy can be found here; cliché characters, formula story, unbelievable situations and a distinct lack of comedy. This is a misfire that given the talent of the actors, should have been a grand slam.

WHY RENT THIS: Latifah is one of the most charming and warm actresses in the business.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The movie is distinctly un-funny and Patton’s Morgan is so despicable that there’s no dramatic tension whatsoever.

FAMILY VALUES: There are some suggestive situations and a smattering of foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Lawrence Frank, the coach of the Nets at the time of filming, was fired 16 games into the following season and although he appears in the film, he wasn’t depicted as the coach.  

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is a featurette on Common’s basketball training; the Blu-Ray also has an additional featurette on the involvement of NBA players in the film.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $21.6M on an unreported production budget; the movie may well have made money.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

TOMORROW: Youth in Revolt