Identity Thief maxes out its credit card on Blu-ray, offering a good presentation of a comedy that sadly fails to come together. Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy play an unlikely couple on the road together in a series of situations that are meant to be hilarious but mostly wind up falling flat. The supporting cast fares a little better, particularly Robert Patrick as a dangerous bounty hunter who appears to have wandered in from another movie. The Blu-ray disc offers solid picture and sound, along with a few bonus features. I suppose that Melissa McCarthy fans will want to see this, but I can’t recommend it to anyone else.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English DVS 2.0, Spanish 5.1 DTS, French 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: Not Rated, R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 52 Mins. (R Rated) 2 Hrs. 1 Min. (Unrated)
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/04/2013
Identity Thief is a teachable example that comedy is not as easy as it looks to accomplish. While the movie has undeniable been a box office hit, it still falls very short of any quality levels one could ask of it. The short version of the review is that the movie follows Sandy (Jason Bateman) as he tries to bring Diana (Melissa McCarthy) to justice for having stolen his identity and turned his life upside down. This setup is designed to put Sandy and Diana on the road together, thus paving the way for all sorts of shenanigans as they travel from Florida to Sandy’s home in Denver. One would think that the road movie anti-buddy comedy motif would be a can’t-miss idea, as we’ve seen in the past with movies like Midnight Run and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. But that magic doesn’t strike here, and the viewer is left with endless Melissa McCarthy routines that either peter out or go so far over the top that they become a challenge to watch. Some supporting performers are good. Jon Favreau easily steals both scenes he’s in as Sandy’s jerk of a boss, and Genesis Rodriguez and T.I. do well as a bickering pair of criminals who are after Diana for payback. The best performance in the movie comes from Robert Patrick as a skip tracer who is after Diana for jumping bail. But those supporting players only pop up here and there, and the rest of the time, the audience is left in the company of Bateman playing straight man to McCarthy’s antics, most of which simply don’t work.
The Production Rating: 1.5/5
SPOILERS HERE: One major part of the problem here is the basic premise. The movie starts with Diana stealing Sandy’s identity and going to town with his credit cards, thus causing him conniptions when he starts getting the bills, the phone calls and all the detritus that goes with the theft. But right away, the movie sails over the top with the situation and takes the scenario into science fiction. We’re asked to believe that Sandy, a responsible office drone in Denver who carefully manages his finances, could get into a heap of trouble after Diana gets his information and starts maxing out his credit cards in Florida. We’re asked to accept that nobody at the credit card companies would notice that the cards were being used simultaneously in two different states, one for Sandy’s normal routine and the other for a wild spree in Florida. We’re further asked to accept that nobody would believe Sandy’s cries of innocence when it’s pretty obvious what is happening. We’re further asked to accept that local Denver police would arrest Sandy on a bench warrant for Diana in another state, when the Florida police already have Diana’s picture and information. The movie continues going over the top with the premise, positing that the Denver police would presume Sandy guilty of drug crimes without any evidence, and that the entire matter couldn’t have been cleared up with a single phone call. The final straw comes when Sandy announces his plan to clear his name – to travel to Florida, grab Diana himself and somehow bring her back to Denver to help him clear his name. And while I understand that this is a comic premise, I would counter that there’s a difference between a little exaggeration and a leap beyond all bounds.
MORE SPOILERS: Now, even if the viewer can get past that entire line of nonsense, we’re still left with a road movie that could never and would never happen. Because in the case of a movie like Midnight Run, the adventure is an understandable one – Jack Walsh must get the Duke to Los Angeles within a few days, and he practically drags his quarry across the country. In the case of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, we have two travelers who mutually need to get home. In the case of Identity Thief, we have two people who would never be in the same car. Sandy may want Diana to answer for her crimes, but she has no reason to get in a car with him and drive to Denver. Even with bad guys on her tail, she doesn’t need to get in a car with a man who clearly wants to put her in jail, and he wouldn’t want to be anywhere near her anyway. So the premise self-destructs before the players are on the road.
EVEN MORE SPOILERS: If the viewer can get past that problem, then we’re faced with the vignettes that pop up along the way. Most of these scenes consist of Sandy trying to keep the situation under control at a motel or a restaurant and Diana acting outrageously. Probably the most egregious material happens in a sequence where Sandy is forced to deal with Diana picking up a large drunken businessman (Eric Stonestreet) and turning their small motel room into a carnival. In most of the scenes with McCarthy, the material starts out mildly amusing and then drags on until the viewer’s patience has been totally exhausted. The scenes with Stonestreet push the material so far past even that point that obnoxious would be a kind description. After several of these situations, we’re meant to think that somehow Sandy and Diana have bonded, in a manner similar to that of the earlier road movies. Except that in the earlier movies, there was reason for the characters to warm to each other. In this movie, one has to wonder why Sandy would ever open up to this woman, much less spend any time with her, much less put himself into this situation in the first place.
FINAL SPOILERS: That said, there are a few moments of interest here. Genesis Rodriguez and T.I. play a pair of criminals following Sandy and Diana, in a manner similar to the mob guys chasing the leads in Midnight Run. They don’t have much to do, but they’re at least amusing – particularly given that most of their scenework consists of Rodriguez chewing out T.I. in Spanish for each part of the pursuit he’s messing up. And Robert Patrick, as a bounty hunter chasing Diana for skipping bail, shows a wildness and intensity that’s more interesting than anything else in the movie. Of course, there is the problem that Patrick’s performance is quite serious – there’s a real edge on his delivery that tells you he’s not kidding around. Which points to a problem for director Seth Gordon in assembling this movie – he’s clearly assumed that by gathering this cast together and putting them into these situations, he would have comedy gold. What he’s instead compiled is a series of performances that don’t all belong in the same movie, and a series of extended improvisational riffs by Melissa McCarthy that neither amuse or make much sense. The movie concludes with a series of even more outlandish ideas, including the notion that Diana doesn’t even know her own true identity and the head-slapping moment where Sandy takes Diana home for dinner with his family. (I am nearly beyond words to describe the spectacle of Diana being hit full-on by a car, landing in the ugliest manner possible, and then getting up and walking away as though nothing happened.) In the end, the viewer doesn’t have much to take away from this movie, not even the good laughs one would have hoped for. People who are fans of Melissa McCarthy will probably enjoy her riffs here – and clearly there are enough of those fans to have made this movie a decent hit this year. But anyone just looking for a funny road movie, or for a comedy for a couple’s movie night, may be extremely disappointed.
Identity Thief has been released simultaneously on Blu-ray and standard definition. The Blu-ray has everything from the standard DVD, and adds high definition picture and sound along with some additional extras. The Blu-ray packaging includes the DVD release on a second disc within the plastic case. Both the Blu-ray and the standard DVD include two cuts of the movie – the R-Rated Theatrical cut and an unrated cut that runs about ten minutes longer.
One final note about the movie. There is a scene approximately halfway through the movie where Sandy and Diana walk down a rural highway in Georgia, having exhausted their various vehicular options for the moment. If I’m not mistaken, they’re walking down the exact same stretch of road where Hal Needham, Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason filmed some important scenes for Smokey and the Bandit over 35 years ago.
Identity Thief is presented in a 1080p AVC 2.3:1 transfer at an average 29 mbps that provides a satisfying level of detail throughout. Flesh tones are accurate, and the various wardrobe choices and looks for Melissa McCarthy are effective and distinct. (Probably the best look for the Blu-ray is the Midwestern picnic blanket shirt she wears – the HD transfer does well with the intricate pattern.) The use of CGI in the movie is subtle, but astute viewers will be able to pick up on it. (The movie was shot in Georgia, with other skylines being added onto greenscreen backgrounds, and with most of the interior driving scenes being done on a greenscreen stage.)
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
Identity Thief is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (averaging 4.4 mbps) that mostly locates the dialogue in the front channels and the pop songs in the rear channels. The subwoofer gets used here and there for car impacts, gunshots and loud music – essentially what you’d expect for a standard mix for a road comedy. The Blu-ray also includes standard 5.1 DTS mixes in Spanish and French, and an English DVS track.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The Blu-ray presentation of Identity Thief comes with a few extra features, including a quick gag reel, a few minutes of alternate takes, a pair of featurettes and a fast tour of the skiptracer’s van. Some previews are also available for recent Universal comedies. The packaging also includes the DVD release, which includes just one of the featurettes and the gag reel. A digital copy is available online via pocket BLU or via a code included in the packaging. I should note that I was unable to make any use of BD-Live with this title.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Gag Reel (1080p, 0:48) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This is a quick assembly of blown takes, usually involving Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy cracking each other up.
The Making of Identity Thief (1080p, 17:04) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Here we have the usual making-of featurette, loaded with the standard quick interview soundbites with the cast and creative staff and all the mutual compliments you can imagine, alongside the usual on-set video and assorted clips from the movie. Jason Bateman acknowledges that he originated the production after hearing the basic story pitch, thinking this would be a current day follow up to road movies like Midnight Run and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The featurette includes discussion of the fact that the movie was almost completely shot in Georgia, aside from a few establishing shots grabbed in other cities. Curiously, there is no mention of the reshoots done to rebuild the movie’s ending, as Genesis Rodriguez discussed in my interview with her.
Alternate Takes (1080p, 5:07) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This is a collection of alternate lines and ad-libs from what was used in the movie, along with some alternate scene opening choices. If the viewer was hoping to see multiple shots of Melissa McCarthy throwing up, this would be the place to go.
Scenes Stealing: Capturing the Humor of Identity Thief (7:35, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This short featurette continues the basic meme of the other one, although it focuses a bit more on the notion that Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy were having a great time on set. Bateman’s skill as a straight man is discussed, as is his skill at pinching himself to keep from laughing during various takes.
The Skiptracer’s Van Tour (3:33, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This is an odd little piece, spotlighting Robert Patrick in character as the bounty hunter, as he gives the viewer a quick tour of his vehicle. Patrick is clearly ad-libbing his way through the discussion of the various items he finds in the doors and on the shelves.
Previews – Several previews for similar Universal comedies are included in a separate menu.
My Scenes – The usual Blu-ray bookmarking feature is available here, allowing the viewer to set their own bookmarks throughout the film.
BD-Live – At the time of review, I was unable to activate any BD-Live functionality and I could not find a link to it in the main menu.
DVD Copy – A second disc is included in the package, holding the standard DVD of the movie. It contains the movie presented in standard definition in an anamorphic 2.35:1 picture with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English (@448 kbps), Spanish and French, as well as the English DVS track. The gag reel and the longer featurette are also included. A “Previews” menu allows access to anamorphic trailers for Bridesmaids, The Change Up, paul, Couples Retreat, Hit & Run, Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Knocked Up.
Digital Copy – Instructions are included in the packaging for obtaining a digital or Ultraviolet copy of the movie for your your laptop or portable device.
Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English, Spanish and French. A full chapter menu is available for the film.
Identity Thief undoubtedly has its fans, but this reviewer isn’t one of them. The movie simply doesn’t work, in spite of the best efforts of some good supporting players, although not all of them seem to be playing in the same movie. There’s a germ of a good idea in here, but the movie quickly pushes it so far past the bounds of believability that the audience can no longer follow it. Melissa McCarthy’s fans will probably enjoy this movie, but past that, I’m struggling to think of who else would want to see it. Granted, it did fine at the box office – but we could say that about many movies that don’t measure up in terms of quality. The Blu-ray presentation is fine – solid picture and sound, and a few bonuses. This just isn’t a movie that rewards the time the viewer spends with it.
Overall Rating: 2/5
Reviewed By: Kevin EK
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