Movie reviews: Identity Thief

An entirely appropriate title for a film that steals from a number of superior movies, yet never appears sure of what it really wants to be.

Movie reviews: Identity Thief

Identity Thief (15A) opens with hardworking accountant Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) discovering that his bank accounts have been cleaned out by credit card scammer Diana (Melissa McCarthy) after he unwittingly gives her his personal details over the phone. Sandy is based in Colorado, Diana in Florida, so Sandy hatches a plan: he’ll travel to Florida and drag Diana back to Denver, where the local cops can arrest her for her crime. Straightforward in theory, but once Sandy arrives in Florida he discovers that he’s not the only person who wants to take Diana in — and the others all seem to have no qualms about using guns. There are strong echoes of Midnight Run (1988) and Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) in what transpires next, as mild-mannered Sandy quickly realises that he’s no match for professional con artist Diana. Foul-mouthed, aggressive and predatory, Diana — given a full-blooded performance by McCarthy — leads Sandy a merry dance, preying on his good nature and gullibility. Opposite her, in what is probably his best big screen performance to date, Bateman capitalises on his usual shtick as the put-upon Everyman, garnering audience sympathy even as he grows increasingly cynical and dishonest. Director Seth Gordon keeps it all ticking over at a reasonable pace, and the script generates just enough twists to make the tale interesting enough to stick with until the inevitable finale. It’s not nearly on a par with the movies it seeks to emulate, but Identity Thief is an enjoyable riff on the buddy road movie.

Jack the Giant Slayer (12A) opens up with a prologue-style story that essentially retells the fairytale of Jack and the Beanstalk, although this version contains not one giant but an army of hundreds. Soon we’re segueing into the movie proper and watching a grown-up Jack (Nicholas Hoult) being persuaded to part with his horse by a thieving monk, who offers him beans which possess dark magic. Jack’s uncle dismisses his nephew’s claims, but that night the beans take root and shoot a massive beanstalk into the sky, taking the thrill-seeking Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) with it. King Brahmwell (Ian McShane) orders that Isabelle be rescued, and off up the beanstalk go Jack, Elmont (Ewan McGregor) and the conniving Roderick (Stanley Tucci). Directed by Bryan Singer, Jack the Giant Slayer is essentially a turbo-charged version of the fairytale every child knows. It pays full tribute to the fairytale’s otherworldliness in its depiction of the giants’ fabulous lair, while the tongue-in-cheek delivery of McGregor, McShane and the scene-stealing Tucci remind the audience that no one involved is taking it all too seriously. Except, unfortunately for the expressionless Nicholas Hoult, who lacks even a shred of charm or charisma as the supposed hero of the piece. It’s a good old-fashioned romp that provides plenty of thrills and spills, but a patchy script and uneven performances result in a fairytale that’s devoid of magic.

The end of the prehistoric world is nigh when we first encounter The Croods (G) in the latest animated tale from DreamWorks, a cave-dwelling family who live in perpetual fear of drought, famine, predators and — well, everything. Their worst fears are realised when the world itself begins to fall apart but hope arrives in the shape of Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), a young man who appears to be able to generate fire at will — and who fires something of a passion in the heart of teenager Eep (Emma Stone). Grug (Nicholas Cage), the father of the Crood family, resists any change as dangerous, but soon Grug & Co have no choice but to learn life’s lessons from Guy as volcanoes erupt and the old ways disappear. Their journey towards the mountains where they’ll find safety is vividly rendered by the DreamWorks team, but the story feels episodic and lacks the usual DreamWorks finesse. That said, the film is never less than visually interesting — there are strong Biblical allusions, and references to Paradise Lost, for example — and there are more than enough slapstick comedy moments to satisfy the kids.

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