“Identity Thief” demonstrates this in spades, continually traveling down the path of least expectance. It’s an obvious effort to generate laughs, but it rarely adds up to laugh-out-loud funny moments or remote sensibility. Diana commences her relationship with Sandy with instant discordance, resorting to battery and mockery. Unexpectedly portrayed in a comedy, this is what can be expected from catching a criminal in the midst of their caper; odder still is that it’s not particularly funny to see Diana toy with villainy so undeviatingly. Later, after she’s warmed up to Sandy, she unexplainably shakes the scurrility and aggression – even for the raging, nearly homicidal skip-tracer (Robert Patrick) hunting her down.
The grandest inconsistency revolves around Diana’s morality. It’s one thing to construct an anti-hero; it’s another to build up a character’s unscrupulousness until feeling sympathy seems like an entirely abandoned hope. She’s shown to have low self-esteem, a poor upbringing, and no dependable friends. Sandy is in a similarly pitiable position, being belittled by his browbeating boss (Jon Favreau), worrying about his wife’s pregnancy, and on the verge of losing his source of income. While the plot is curious, the solution is utterly nonsensical – but at least Sandy is a clear-cut protagonist. Diana handles the situation by unceasingly digging a deeper hole: breaking more laws, upsetting more malefactors, and belligerently opposing the inane yet innocent ideas Sandy poses for recompense. It takes so long for Diana to grow a conscience, it’s nearly too late to want to see her character come out all right. And once she finally exhibits a softer side, the film spends too many minutes padding the already lengthy runtime with random gags to draw out the climax.
- Mike Massie