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A Wild Ride into Madness: Identity Thief, Movie Review

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Identity Thief: Crude and Extremely Humorous

Identity Thief, Movie Review

Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman in Identity Thief (Seth Gordon, 2013)Seth Gordon’s new movie Identity Thief satisfied a need for a new breed of comedy. It blends heartfelt comedy with perverse shock humor, creating a fusion of morals and potty jokes. Jason Bateman plays Sandy, an honest and moral businessman who has had his identity stolen by an extravagant diva. The professional fraud-artist is acted by Melissa McCarthy, who plays charmingly off of Bateman’s straight-laced character. As the two vie for control over their self respect and fight for a name, they both face uniquely bizarre challenges. What unfolds is a high-octane comedy of errors in which McCarthy’s talent for belligerent monologue and dramatic physical comedy make her the reckless star of a world that still follows the rules.

As Sandy attempts to capture the thief of his identity, he becomes enmeshed in a world that is beyond his neat sense of control as an accountant. The character differences between the two are so perfectly drastic and so we are treated to a strained and yet hilarious dialogue between them. As they banter, they are forced to know each other more deeply, and to share the sudden dangers of the corrupt underworld in which McCarthy’s character has made her home. Unwittingly united, the two feud heavily, but as the movie progresses we lose track of our own moral compass. We no longer side with either character but fall into the spontaneous rhythm of the film, which wanders far from traditional norms without losing its power.

The R-Rated movie maintains its dignity despite its bold ventures into crude scenarios that might offend the viewer. As it was in Horrible Bosses, Seth Gordon’s writing serves up a brand of shock humor in which truth and honor survive its extremely inappropriate tendencies. It was no mistake that Jason Bateman was cast for this role as he plays the perfectly normal good guy. It is not that he is ordinary, or that he is not funny. It is that his brand of dry humor requires an outlandish partner who defies his firm concept of what is right and wrong. He is the structured backbone from which a dysfunctional body of characters presents itself in this film. He is the moral judge, the subtle mind at work in a loud world which has pushed him to his limits, the poor victim of McCarthy’s unapologetic style.

Having captured his enemy, Sandy finds that his target is a tough cookie. He is not a tough guy and and so the brazen maverick manipulates him and embarrasses him  wherever he takes her. She is in control even as she is in big trouble, and challenges her captor incessantly, creating a delightfully sardonic mood to the film.

Don’t expect a neat ending or a believable plot line from this comedy. It is the kind of movie that tests our patience with its continued stretches of our imagination. Thankfully, it does so artfully, its crudeness balanced by the strong thread of psychological turmoil that runs through the film and gives it its moral base. So go check it out, and enjoy it for its sheer unpredictability.

I give it four thumbs up.

Ezra Prior is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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