A repulsively stupid set-up fuels the comedic shenanigans of this tepid Melissa McCarthy vehicle. Diane (McCarthy) steals the identity of one Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman), ludicrously putting Patterson’s job on the line and forcing a cross-country chase from Denver to Florida in order to track Diane down. The actual plan? To trap Diane and bring her into work so his boss can see he’s not lying. This was an actual, filmed script.
Featurettes make implausible comparisons to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, disgusting in their ineptitude to assume even a partial relationship. McCarthy’s Diane is a violent, obnoxious, conniving criminal with a slate of irreparable behaviors. She isn’t funny so much as she is dangerous, Bateman playing straight as she lashes out.
Identity Thief is a movie of aggression, unfriendly and vicious with the expectation that audiences will accept the material as harmless slapstick. Maybe so until drug runners blast doors with shotguns and a vile bounty hunter threatens to burn an innocent hair salon owner to death for information. People are punched in the throat (repeatedly), shot in the ear, blasted with guitars to the face, and flipped inside vehicles. It’s all fun until someone gets hurt, and that’s often.
Preposterous contrivances open gaping plot holes that sag an overbearing two hours of comedic flatness, entire stretches avoidable if Bateman would open his mouth. That includes a cringe-inducing cameo from the otherwise capable Eric Stonestreet, which could function were the film not already inhibited by thin strands forcing drug cartels into the narrative.
Together, McCarthy and Bateman can carry empty comedic material, even gunk as overstuffed and tired as this. Harmless and ineffective as plotting may be, Identity Thief sincerely expects sympathies when the situation dives southward. Clean playing Sandy is reeled into the game of fraud without repercussions, and Diane’s melodramatic backstory is frustratingly forced to give the character any frame of legitimacy. For Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, it worked because John Candy’s character was unaware of his innocent abrasiveness; Diane is fully aware, manipulative and uncaring. Her own actions dictate the audience’s lack of empathy.
It makes sitting through caustic character development unfriendly to someone seeking light laughs.
The Arri Alexa has arrived at a quality junction that makes the differences between film and digital almost imperceptible. Signal the Alexa-shot Identity Thief, pouring natural images onto the frame without any trace of their non-film origins, basking in afforded contrast and black levels needed to convey depth. A thin intrusion of noise across the opening credit sequence is the only bother.
There are other elements at play, especially focal and green screen shots that are effectively softer. Edit to edit, fidelity can waver, although sans finger pointing at anything other than cinematography. AVC encoding from Universal is invisible.
That leaves the screen free to drop copious amounts of facial detail into the frame, exquisitely rendered at its peak with exceptional sharpness. Close-ups consistently dazzle, and little (if any) fidelity is lost when the camera sits further away. Environments pick up too, roadside trees or homes perfectly captured to the fullest capabilities of the format.
Identity Thief ditches the usual array of burned flesh tones so many modern comedies are enthused with, choosing a naturalistic appearance that props primaries up on a pedestal without pushing too hard. Coupled with the precision contrast, the piece gains a dominating look that is more appealing than the content itself.
For road trip comedy, Identity Thief’s DTS-HD mix is broader than one may suspect. While it does play host to egregiously obvious ADR, dialogue is otherwise pure, with a split into the stereos where applicable. This track is active when called upon.
Bars and restaurants showcase active soundfields, sending music into each channel, while bumping LFE a notch. Gunshots, and there are a couple, prove heavy. Highlights include two car chases though, swerving and missing vehicles panning through the speakers carefully. Horns sound and pan, while the chaos is situated near the center of the driver. Better than expected work for the genre.
All 48 seconds of a gag reel seem wasteful, as if there weren’t more to include with a comedy-heavy cast. Alternate takes run five minutes, better and a hair raw. Seventeen minutes of a making-of run the course of bonus feature cliches, while Scene Stealing focuses in on the actors for seven minutes. A tour of Robert Patrick’s bounty hunter van round off the extras. Also note the disc contains an unrated cut that runs a few minutes longer.