Saturday, February 9, 2013

Identity Thief [2013]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L) Chicago Sun-Times (2 Stars)  AV Club (C+) Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (A. Shaw) review
Chicago Sun-Times (R. Roeper) review
AV Club (T. Robinson) review 

Identity Thief (directed by Seth Gordon, screenplay by Craig Mazin story by Jerry Eeten and Craig Mazin again) is an often funny that both places its two stars Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy in rather familiar territory and yet also surprises.

Bateman plays Sandy Patterson (named by his father for baseball legend Sandy Koufax) who is introduced to viewers at the beginning of the film as a respectable (if "put upon" by his boss) Denver-area family man with wife Trish (played by Amanda Peet) two lovely little daughters Franny (played by Mary-Charles Jones) and Jessie (played by Maggie Elizabeth Jones) and one more child on the way.

McCarthy plays "Diana" a short, heavy-set, always with a story, modern-day electronic "grifter" introduced to us at the beginning of the film as operating out of Orlando, Florida.

Even as the opening credits roll, we hear "Diana" impersonating "a representative from an identity protection service" calling Sandy Patterson at his work telling him that "someone had attempted to steal his identity," that "they" (her firm) had blocked the attempt but that his recent brush with identity theft would perhaps make him interested in "enrolling" in the "free" identity protection service that her firm offers.  As perhaps many others would, Sandy, who had never before been a target for identity theft but perhaps caught a little offguard by this apparent recent attempt to do so, decides to enroll in "Diana's" service "as long as the service is free ."  Diana happily responds "okay!" and proceeds to ask him for his birth date, social security number and other key personal information to "enroll" him.  Wonderful.  A few hours later, Diana has printed out for herself perhaps a dozen or so credit cards in Sandy Patterson's name (she herself was an identity thief ...) and goes out on a spending spree on his dime.

A few days later back in Denver, the real Sandy Patterson finds his credit card blocked when he tries to purchase gasoline at a service station and soon afterwards finds himself stopped and arrested by Denver police because of an "outstanding warrant" for "Sandy Patterson" in Orlando, Florida (Diana Patterson had gotten into a bar-fight after a night of buying an entire bar drinks on one of Sandy Patterson's credit cards...).

What a nightmare!  When the Denver police get a print-out of the mug-shot of the "Sandy Patterson" arrested in Orlando, FL and it looks _nothing like_ him, the nice, respectable family-man Sandy Patterson of Denver, CO they are able to release him.  However, Diana has by this time destroyed Sandy Patterson's credit rating and racked-up tens of thousands of dollars of debt on his credit cards.  Would Denver's police do anything about that?  No.  It's not their jurisdiction and even if they filed a warrant for "Diana's" arrest and extradition to Colorado, Denver Police Detective Reilly (played by Morris Chestnut) tells him "if she bought something fraudulently on your credit card with Amazon, then Seattle would want a piece of her, if she bought something through Apple, then Palo Alto in California would.  She could have fraudulently purchased goods and services in dozens of communities across the United States.  It could take years before we'd finally get her here to Denver."  With his own job (at a financial services firm) in Denver on the line, good ole honest Sandy Patterson who always had paid his bills on time decides to go out to Orlando, Florida to catch Diana himself and bring her to justice back in Denver himself.  The rest of the film unspools from there...

Among the intrigues that un-spool, is, of course, that Diana is in trouble not only with nice guy Sandy Patterson but also (perhaps inevitably) with various other more unsavory underworld characters.  Hence, even as Sandy Patterson catches up with her and starts taking her from Orlando, Florida to Denver, CO she has two sets of bounty hunters a younger black and hispanic team of Julian (played by P.I.) and Marisol (played by Genesis Rodriguez) and an older, more "hickish" more traditional looking bounty hunter going by the name "Skip Tracer" (played by Robert Patrick).  Much ensues...

Among that which ensues is an appreciation by each of the characters (and perhaps by the audience as well) of the two central characters' "worlds."  Sandy Patterson (played by Jason Bateman) really was a nice honest guy who didn't deserve to have his and his family's life so grievously wounded, while "Diana" (Melissa McCarthy's character) had her own pain and truth.   Short, chunky and growing-up largely abandoned, she really made the life that she's had largely through her own whits.  The scene in which she picks up similarly short blue-collar chunkster named "Big Chuck" (played by Eric Stonestreet) at a random road-side bar somewhere in Georgia ought to run through every American moral theologian's mind when he/she writes and/or reflects on his/her work because there is pain and poverty expressed there that generally doesn't make its way into Sunday sermons of Catechetical instruction.  This is not to say that "non-photomodels" ought to get a "free pass" when it comes to sexual morality, but there ought to be an acknowledgement that life for the "not stunningly beautiful" (that is for most of us) is _not easy_ and that there is a special (and _real_) pain that is experienced by the "fat and frumpy" (and again that includes more of us than perhaps we'd like to admit ;-).

Finally, the film eventually finds itself carrying itself into the realm of asking the question of whether there are people (generally rich, arrogant people) who deserve their money stolen from them.   Interestingly, this is the second film in several weeks that explores this theme (the other being the far more violent and far less funny or convincing Parker [2012]).  Here the CNS/USCCB's reviewer reminds his readers that theft generally remains theft.  Yes, a case could be made to steal a loaf of bread to feed one's starving children.  Yet, the case really can't be made to permit stealing from one's boss simply because he/she is a rich, arrogant jerk. 

Yet, what a remarkable movie this film turns out to be ;-).  Simple as it is (and often somewhat crude.  Parents the film is appropriately R-rated.  It won't necessarily "damage" your teens if they see it.  On the other hand, you really deserve to have the right to have a "final say" on whether you'd allow your teens to see a film like this) it actually gives viewers much to think about with regards to practical "feet on the ground" morality.

Finally the film, IMHO, has a surprisingly _appropriate_ "happy ending."  Those who've read my blog over the years would know that I've repeatedly pointed out that Hollywood is not necessarily as "swinging from the chandeliers liberal" as many would portray it as being.  Yes, it wants its stories to "end well."  But actually more often that not, it also wants its stories to end in a way that's believable and acceptable to its audiences.

Crimes were committed in this film.  And to its credit, the film does not let them be simply "talked away."  Good job folks, good job!

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