So maybe you’ve heard of this new Melissa McCarthy vehicle, The Identity Thief? Well to be perfectly honest I’d never heard of it until the past week, so either I’m really bad at keeping up with movie news, or this thing has flown so far under the radar that its not even technically flying—which is entirely possible considering the reviews that are coming back. Let’s set aside the fact that Hollywood seems dead-set on wasting McCarthy’s genuine and diverse comedic talents on a series of roles, seemingly all crime-related, that aim to replicate her starmaking turn in Bridesmaids, which isn’t really surprising considering how good she was in that movie and how good Hollywood is at bone-headed attempt to destroy good things.
But enough of that, and more of how the film is scored by Christopher Lennertz, the composer for Supernatural, and such instant-classic films as Alvin & The Chipmunks, Think Like A Man, and Dreamworks’ Hop. Considering the plot synopsis for the Identity Theft this might actually be a step down.
In order to compose an appropriate score, Lennertz has assembled a plethora of rock’n’roll has-beens and played-withs, including ex-Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney, and Myron McKinney, a man whom the press release informs me is currently of Earth, Wind and Fire, though further research indicates he started playing for them almost thirty years after their musical peak.
All of this comes together in a score that seems intent on creating a weird kind of pastiche of grungy blues, soul, funk, blaxploitation scores, and 80s cheese rock. Its kind of baffling, and almost compelling in the way that it’s baffling. But then again, one can’t escape the feeling that these sounds are being used to draw reminders to past films, because they signify easy touch points in our cultural memory, which is frustrating. 70s crime movies didn’t use funk because it somehow signified “crime movie” they used it because it was contemporary and street. The score to Identity Thief seems to be using it because its somewhat expected, and (I guess?) kind of funny because, like, how dated is that old music?
At the same time its kind of sublimely ironic that a score that wants to evoke the sounds of the past so much that it utilizes a new re-recording of James Brown’s classic “The Payback” (recently featured in Quentin Tarantino’s infinitely-superior Django Unchained, seriously guys?) has been written to accompany a movie called “The Identity Thief.”