DIRECTED BY: Seth Gordon
STARRING: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Bateman, Robert Patrick
There’s plenty of laughs in Identity Thief, if your idea of fun is the Three Stooges with an added dose of Judd Apatow-style vulgarity. The comedy here is about as subtle as a punch in the throat. And there’s a lot of that going on.
Sandy Patterson (Bateman) is a nice guy with a nice life, a lovely wife (Amanda Peet) and two cute little girls. The only thorn in his flesh is a monster boss (Jon Favreau), but that’s about to change and then it’s blue skies all the way.
Or until the next gas station, where his credit card is declined and his nice life starts to unravel. Arrested for skipping court in a state he’s never been to, Sandy discovers that his identity has been stolen - probably something to do with that time he gave all his personal info to a stranger on the phone. As you do when you’re a really nice guy. Or, say, when you’ve recently suffered a severe brain injury.
The culprit is a woman way down in Florida named Diana (McCarthy), an incurable shopaholic and bona fide sociopath, with a long line of fake IDs and maxed-out stolen credit to her name. For reasons that make no sense - except the writers really, really wanted to make a road movie - Sandy heads for the sunshine state, to bring the scoundrel back to Denver to clear his name.
Quite naturally, there is a certain amount of resistance to this plan. Indeed, it gets spectacularly ugly. Along with Diana’s fondness for physical violence, Sandy has to deal with a pair of assassins (Genesis Rodriguez and some rapper named T.I.) who want Diana dead for, well, something. There’s also an irrepressible bounty hunter on her trail. He’s played by Robert Patrick, but the apparent Terminator joke is lost on account of how he’s barely recognisable, looking less like an angry android and more like a wasted cowboy.
For their part, Bateman and McCarthy make the most of the material, and it works better when they’re throwing dialogue back and forth than when they’re throwing furniture around and beating the living crap out of each other. But mostly it’s the latter, and that gets tired fairly fast. And all the cartoon battering makes it even harder to stomach when the ending rolls around and it all gets typically mushy.
It gets typically vulgar, too, along the way. One scene involving Diana and a character named Big Chuck (Eric Stonestreet) gets particularly crude. If director Seth Gordon and his writers genuinely wanted to be daring, rather than trot out all the old lazy stereotypes, they’d have put Jason Bateman in bed with Melissa McCarthy. Better still, they’d have had the leading man fall in love with the big girl.Clearly, in Hollywood, they don’t think we’re ready for that. So hey, punch him in the throat one more time, that’s hilarious!
Jack the Giant Slayer
DIRECTED BY: Bryan Singer
STARRING: Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Ian McShane, Eleanor Tomlinson
Once upon a time, before he started making superhero movies (X-Men, X-2, Superman Returns), director Bryan Singer teamed up with screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie to make that great little film, The Usual Suspects. That’s a while back now, but still and all, you might have expected that when they got together again to bring fairytale magic to the big screen, they’d have come up with something a bit less, well, bland.
But that’s mostly how Jack the Giant Slayer has turned out – pretty, but almost completely vanilla.
A mash-up of two fairytales, Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant Killer, it begins well. Two children – poor boy Jack and little Princess Isabelle – hear the beloved story of a long-ago war between humans and giants. All very Lord of the Rings, though these few minutes have more charm than the whole of The Hobbit.
Ten years down the road, Jack (Hoult) lives on his cranky uncle’s farm, and is having to sell the horse and cart on account of hard times. Jack flogs them off for a handful of beans, the kind we all know shouldn’t be exposed to certain elements.
Despite Jack’s humble state, he’s managed to become friends with Princess Isabelle (Tomlinson), who’s mad for adventure but not too likely to see much. Her daddy, the king (McShane) is marrying her off to the hideous and obviously villainous Roderick (Stanley Tucci), who might have wandered through time from the set of The Princess Bride.
When Isabelle is suddenly whisked off to the heavens by a massive beanstalk, Jack joins the king’s men – led by the valiant knight Elmont (McGregor) – on the mission to bring her home. Only one thing stands in their way – an army of giants led by the two-headed General Fallon (John Fassir and the excellent Bill Nighy).
There are moments when the film strikes just the right campish, comic note that would have served it well throughout – mostly thanks to Ewan McGregor, and to the brilliant Stanley Tucci. But Singer and McQuarrie are determined to go for spectacle over story, and while it does look great, it’s all a bit hollow inside.
Younger viewers may get a kick out of it, but a bit more heart would have done them no harm, either.