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Review: Identity Thief – Petty crime comedy

Posted by on February 8, 2013 – 12:03 am

Identity ThiefThe new film Identity Thief attempts to combine a crime comedy with the “incompatible character road trip” genre and the results are sometimes funny, but mostly disappointing; especially for Melissa McCarthy’s first headline role since her 2012 Oscar nomination for Bridesmaids.

I really like Ms. McCarthy, and her cameo in the recent film, This is 40, was the best thing that movie had going for it. She is one of our best female comedians and she reminds me of a modern day Lucille Ball with her often hilarious physical comedy. She’s good in Identity Thief and does a great job with the material she has to work with, but unfortunately the weak script by Craig Mazin (of Scary Movie & Hangover sequels fame) doesn’t amount to much.

Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) has a female sounding moniker that has made him an easy target for an experienced identity thief like Diana (McCarthy), who effortlessly cons the Colorado business man out of his social security number and other information she needs to create credit cards and identification with his name, that she then uses to go on a spending and partying spree in Florida.

Just as Sandy is moving up the corporate ladder to better provide for his wife (Amanda Peet) & kids, his world comes collapsing down around him as his credit rating plummets and he is implicated in a criminal assault that occurred in Florida at a location he has never been. The cops and Sandy’s boss (John Cho) give him a week to clean up the mess or he’ll be out of a job and facing potential jail time.

Identity ThiefSandy believes that if he can find the person that stole his identity in Florida, he can convince her to come to the Centennial State to confess to her crimes and clear his name. But it turns out that getting Diana back to Colorado will be tougher than he thought because they can’t fly together with the same identification credentials; and to make matters worse some dangerous mobsters are after the woman for selling them unusable bogus credit cards and IDs.

Wackiness ensues as Sandy & Diana travel by car from Florida to Colorado with the bad guys (rapper T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez), a redneck skiptracer (Robert Patrick) and the cops all on their tail. Along the way Diana begins to realize the error of her ways and Sandy starts to sympathize with her and her misfortunate life as an abandoned child.

Part of the problem with Identity Thief is its utter lack of believability. Sure, it’s just a screwball comedy, but it is sprinkled with real human moments and emotion; and in order to buy into the “serious parts,” the premise has to have some attachment to reality. If it doesn’t work on that level then the comedy just becomes a series of gags floating in a sea of tripe.

Identity ThiefJason Bateman basically just plays Jason Bateman, and the actor is fine in the straight man role but his dull lack of energy in this particular part made me feel that his heart wasn’t really into this implausible story any more than mine was. Identity Thief was directed by Seth Gordon who also did Horrible Bosses with Bateman as well as the excellent documentary, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.

Despite its many failings, Identity Thief does have some hilarious moments. So if you like McCarthy and you dig a road trip flick, then this film is worth watching – just don’t set your hopes too high. Grade: 6/10