Seth Gordon’s “Identity Thief” is yet another oddball comedy about polar opposites traveling cross-country together. The movie stars Jason Bateman as the straight-laced nice guy trying to clear his name after his identity is stolen. Melissa McCarthy, best known for her role in “Bridesmaids”, plays the outrageous but laughable con artist named Diana. While the movie introduces an interesting psychological motive behind Diana’s actions, it never tackles the underlying issue head on. Instead, “Identity Thief” is just another throwaway buddy flick.
Sandy Patterson (Bateman) is a simple man. He doesn’t live excessively and refuses to take charge, even when his boss (Jon Favreau) unapologetically humiliates him. One day on his way to his new job, Sandy is arrested for missing his court date in Florida. Thing is, Sandy has never been Florida. He soon realizes that his identity was stolen by a petite, troll-looking woman named Diana (McCarthy). To save his job and restore his reputation, Sandy must travel from Denver to Florida in hopes of convincing Diana to turn herself in. Not surprisingly, things go awry when Sandy and Diana flee together from a pair of drug dealers and a ruthless bounty hunter.
McCarthy is the movie’s one redeeming quality. Unfortunately, her improvisation skills can’t make up for the tired script or Bateman’s one-note acting. McCarthy’s sweet sadness and outlandish humor make her one of the most lovable on-screen crooks. Too bad Craig Mazin, who also scripted “The Hangover Part II,” shies away from giving Diana more depth. It’s obvious the first time we see Diana that she suffers from low self-esteem and severe abandonment issues, but it’s not until the movie’s third act that we get her orphan backstory, which is nothing more than what we’ve already been able to piece together on our own.
“Identity Thief” has a few good chuckle moments. One involving a real estate tycoon named Big Chuck, played by “Modern Family’s” Eric Stonestreet. However, this moment, like so many others, is short-lived. There is one laugh-out-loud moment at the very end of the movie, but we shouldn’t have to wait till the movie’s final scene to have a good laugh.
McCarthy can’t do all the comedic acting herself, and this is where Bateman falls short. His character is painfully one-dimensional, so Bateman has little opportunity to become anything more than the straight man. Still, it’s obvious Bateman’s true motive for taking on such a stale role was the hefty paycheck attached to it.
Hopefully critics don’t write off McCarthy as the token fat, funny girl. Her performances in “Mike and Molly,” “Gilmore Girls,” ”Bridesmaids,” “This is 40” and “Identity Thief” proves that she has what it takes to become one of the most memorable, and physical, comedic actresses.
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