It has happened to so many millions of Americans, it's actually a surprise that no one thought to do a broad comedy about the topic before 'Identity Thief' hit theaters earlier this year. Originally scripted to feature two males in the lead roles, the producers (of which star Jason Bateman is one) decided instead to go with Melissa McCarthy, hoping that the kind of charm and spirit she brought to Bridesmaids would surface again here.
Bateman stars as Sandy Patterson, a Denver businessman who already has enough trouble in life as everyone he meets always seems to comment on his "girl's name." "It's unisex!" is Sandy's standard reply (trust me, this reviewer can relate). Sandy gets a phone call one day from a company asking him to verify his credit card number, and Sandy provides it (the movie requires a lot of stupid moves/ideas from its characters in the first half hour or so to set up its premise…just try to hang with it). Of course, who's really on the other end is Melissa McCarthy's character, who steals Sandy's identity and goes on a spending spree in southern Florida, starting with running up a bar tab in the thousands. The next day, Sandy finds out that one of his credit cards is maxed out when he stops to fill up his gas tank. Just minutes later he's arrested by the police on fraud charges.
Before the above takes place, it's important to note Sandy's work situation, which puts a "ticking clock" on the events that unfold in the film. Sandy's frustrated with not getting a bonus from his current boss (played by Jon Favreau), so when a group of his co-workers (led by John Cho) decide to break away and form their own firm, Sandy agrees to go with them. However, after getting arrested, John Cho's character thinks Sandy is a criminal. To prove his innocence, Sandy cuts a deal: If he can go to Florida and bring back his identity thief within a week, he can keep his new job.
Sandy is able to track down Diana (not her real name, but the one she uses) in Florida, but he's not the only one looking for her. Both a pair of bounty hunters (played by T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez) and a "skiptracer" (played by Robert Patrick) are on Diana's trail and in competition with one another to nab her. Meanwhile, Sandy himself has to worry about not letting Diana out of his sight, lest she tries to get away from him before they make it back to Colorado.
The series of adventures that follow range from mildly amusing to crash and burn in quality. There's a fun little sequence in a restaurant where Sandy and Diana pretend to be husband and wife, but there's also an overlong and completely unfunny bit involving "Big Chuck," a man (played by Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet) that Diana meets in a bar and brings back to her and Sandy's hotel room for sex (telling Chuck that her husband likes to watch).
One's enjoyment of 'Identity Thief' is going to depend largely on one's own sense of humor. While I must confess to rarely laughing out loud during the movie, there's also a pleasantness about it that is due in large part to the cast involved. They're better than the material they've been given to perform. So many of these types of comedies revert to toilet humor and mindless slapstick, and while there's a bit of that in 'Identity Thief,' it's nicely restrained.
Still, there's not enough freshness here to recommend the movie. We've seen this all before and in much better films. 'Identity Thief' isn't quite poor enough to call a bad movie (and the well-publicized attack on the film and star Melissa McCarthy by critic Rex Reed was not only uncalled for, but undeserved), but never manages to rise above similar "road trip" comedy films. Let's call this one a missed opportunity.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
This "Unrated Edition" of 'Identity Thief' is a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack that also includes an insert with codes for both a digital copy and an UltraViolet copy of the movie. The discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray case, with the DVD on the inside left and the Blu-ray on the inside right. A slip cover is also included. Both the Blu-ray and DVD versions are front-loaded with trailers for Admission, the TV series 'Suits,' The Host, and a teaser trailer for 'Despicable Me 2.' The main menu for the Blu-ray is similar to the majority of Universal releases, with a video montage of the movie playing and menu selections along the left side of the screen. Both the Blu-ray and the DVD contain the original theatrical cut of the movie and an "unrated" version which runs about 9 minutes longer.
Shot digitally using the Arri Alexa camera, 'Identity Thief's' transfer is from the original digital master, meaning there's little to complain about with the picture quality. Contrast and skin tones are consistent throughout, and blacks for the most part are solid and distinguishable.
If I have one complaint about the picture, it's an aesthetic one – as the colors seem to be a little drab and subdued when you'd think they would "pop" a little more. This may have just been a conscious decision by the cinematographer to maintain a more film-like look to the movie. Otherwise, viewers should be quite happy with what they get here.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is solid, if not always as active as one would hope. There's some nice use of directionality in various scenes (including some occasional dialogue coming from the rear speakers when a person or voice is off-screen), and I detected no popping, hissing or other defects in the track. There's also a good balance between the dialogue, musical soundtrack, and incidental noises.
Also offered up on this release are Spanish and French DTS Digital Surround 5.1 tracks, as well as a Descriptive Video Service track – although the latter is only available for the theatrical version of the movie. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French.
A good cast makes an otherwise forgettable movie watchable…at least the first time through. However, chances are most will choose not to sit through this one more than once (unless you want to see both the rated and unrated versions), and the lack of any significant or noteworthy extras on this release forces me to file it in the rental-only category.