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Identity Thief
Genre Comedy
 
Review:

We've all wished we were someone else at some stage, dreaming of a better life only to come back to the crushing realisation that we're stuck with ourselves. That doesn't stop us from assuming other people's identities, but there are constraints. If they happen to be famous, we tend to end up in insane asylums and if ordinary, the police usually have to step in to arrest the doppelganger.

Identity Thief follows the misadventures of Sandy Patterson, a corporate paper pusher, who realises that a woman in another state is using his "unisex" name to rack up a growing list of expenses and misdemeanors. Instead of waiting for the police to pull finger, Sandy takes it upon himself to locate the offender, but when "Diana" evades him... civility suffers.

This comedy caper is all over the place. At the heart of the story is a buddy movie as two people who could kill each other become less likely to kill each other. Identity Thief treats "Diana" like a bag of money with a mouth and legs as each faction closes in on her in a game of cat and cat nip money bag. The caper moves along at a good pace drawing a variety of criminal types out from the shadows, turning a road trip buddy movie into a crime caper.

Unfortunately, the genre mix doesn't set properly... playing the comedy up in the cuffed unlikely buddy department and then turning up the heat with the on-the-run suspense. It's a hotch-potch of good, bad and ugly with each character intent on reclaiming "Diana" (Ms. Moneybag) in one form or another. There are some good moments thanks to the charms of comedy co-leads, Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, otherwise it's lukewarm and inconsistent.

The comedy theme seems to reinvent itself every 30 minutes, moving from man-on-the-run to buddy movie to heist to heartfelt family plus one sitcom. This may help sustain the audience's attention or distract us from an otherwise average script, but it does tend to feel like the characters are tripping into scenarios borrowed from better, more original films.

Seth Gordon did a good job with Horrible Bosses and Four Christmases, but his films seem to take on too many characters, losing focus and overshooting the comedy in the process. Each film is still entertaining and funny in parts, but lose the main prize by trying to hit too many targets at once.

Jason Bateman delivers yet another dependable, likable family man performance with great timing and dry wit. He's the straight man, but manages to elicit some great off-beat comedy in the process. Melissa McCarthy continues her brand of Bridesmaids style humour - playing a repulsively irresistible woman with great conviction. While not their funniest roles, they certainly ground their characters and quirky situations.

The cast is padded by the likes of Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Robert Patrick, T.I., Genesis Rodriguez and Eric Stonestreet, who add their names to the bill with some decent character performances. Patrick's relentless bounty hunter role adds some action intensity, while Eric Stonestreet is almost unrecognisable as a lonely cattle ranch King in one of the funniest scenarios.

While mostly entertaining, Identity Thief is essentially an easy-going, no-brainer, mixed bag crime comedy. We're presented with a restless movie that can't quite decide if it's a comedy, caper or both, leaving each skit on an ellipsis. It passes the time with a mildly amusing tone... but ultimately remains likeable, indistinct yet forgettable.

The bottom line: Tepid

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