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Movie Review: 'Identity Thief'

Identity Thief

Starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Bateman, John Cho, Amanda Peet, Robert Patrick, Eric Stonestreet, and Genesis Rodriguez.

Directed by Seth Gordon

Rated R 


After her breakout success in Bridesmaids, it seems that every studio has tried to entice Melissa McCarthy to join their project in order to cash in on her current fame.  That is clearly why the success or failure of Identity Thief’s falls squarely on her shoulders and she is expected to bring home the bacon.  Co-star Jason Bateman has been around for awhile and while he is a solid if not spectacular performer at the box office, it is McCarthy that needed to deliver the goods.  The trouble with this film is that the story is such a mess, that nobody could have saved it, not even the new star on the block.  After sitting through the entire 112 excruciatingly pain-filled minutes of this film I think it should have been called the Comedy Thief instead.  While McCarthy showed a fabulous range of emotion and the ability to pull the most from her conflicted thief, the supporting cast had little to contribute from the feeble script.  McCarthy’s performance is the only worthwhile part of the movie and even that gets lost at times as you suffer through bad timing, bad jokes and a plot so bad with ludicrous plot points that it’s offensive.  The concept alone should have almost guaranteed laughs from beginning to end, but you just can’t navigate around the huge plot-holes. 

Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Batemen) is a mid-level accountant and sympathetic dweeb who works for a mega-corporation in Denver and his evil despicable boss (Jon Favreau).  Sandy’s life appears to be heading for sunnier days when he is asked to join a group of likewise underpaid and underappreciated co-workers in their new firm complete with his own office and a huge pay raise.  But the gig is imperiled when local law enforcement arrests Sandy for skipping a court appointment down in Florida.  Of course Sandy pleads ignorant and that they must have the wrong “Sandy”.  Part of the running gag was supposed to be with Bateman’s character having a “girls” name.  I’m sorry, but that joke is as old as Mel Brooks and just as corny.  When Sandy learns that some sort of con artist has been having a great old time racking up huge bills under his name over in the Sunshine State he pleads for assistance from the local police, but they advise him to go bring the thief in himself.  Meanwhile Sandy’s new boss (John Cho) is ready to dump him from their fledgling enterprise and only agrees to give Sandy exactly one week to clear his name and return to work.  Sandy naively decides to head down to Florida and convince the dastardly Diana to return with him to Denver.  She goes to jail, he clears his name and it will be warm and sunny in the land of happily ever after.  

Most critics and audiences will blame Seth Gordon’s lack of clear vision for this film’s numerous shortfalls, but no director is a magician if the rabbit doesn’t want to come out of the hat.  You might lay blame on the editor who turned into Edward Scissorhands and shredded most of the funny parts, or perhaps we can blame the producers who must have been up to their usual meddling selves and distracted the funny part of the process.  After reviewing the cast and crew lists one more time, I’m happy to declare that the easy money says to blame the screenwriter Craig Mazan.  After all, besides being the only person receiving “credit” for this awful dreck, he is also the person responsible for writing a legendary quartet of unfunny movies that we know as; The Hangover Part II, Scary Movie 3, Scary Movie 4 and last, but not least, Superhero Movie.  Reading this list makes me wonder how this guy is still employed in the business. 

Once down in Florida it doesn’t take Sandy long to track down the diminutive indentity thief herself, Diana (McCarthy).  He quickly learns the hard way just how painful this trip is going to be as she uses several sneaky-moves to elude his initial attempt.  He tracks her down only moments before a couple of good looking assassins (T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez) arrive at the behest of their boss who was hoodwinked by Diana as well.  Sandy and Diana escape and hit the road.  Sandy seemingly convinces Diana that as long as she confesses all to his new bosses then he won’t press charges.  If only all criminals were so gullible!

It doesn’t take long until the plot implodes again, this time in the form of a  bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) who just so happens to receive an offer of 50K to track her down and down her to justice.  It was around this point that I felt the influences of Midnight Run, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and The Cannonball Run all come into play, just nowhere near as smart or as enjoyable to watch.   Sandy and Diana decide to call it a night and this is where the film actually showed some originality, albeit, in an icky sort of way.  After renting a room, Diana heads off to the local bar where she uses her con game to effectively seduce Big Chuck (Eric Stonestreet) and make Sandy’s ears bleed.


On and on these two crash and bash their way across the country all the while eluding the posse that’s chasing them and even mange to wiggle free of a police encounter in St. Louis.  It was while in St. Louis that the film’s moral sentiment was lost as Sandy falls victim to his own revenge-seeking demons and joins sweet Diana on the dark side.  This polar shift seemed to exist for no other purpose than to fill screen time as it clearly left Sandy forever stained even if he doesn’t know it. 

McCarthy and her real life husband, Ben Falcone, who cameos as a motel clerk, have been around Hollywood long enough to realize exactly how tenuous life on the A-list can be so they struck when the iron was still hot and before this movie’s reviews hit the streets.  A few days ago they announced that their newly formed production shingle, On the Day, has just finalized deals to produce three movies.  Good for them!

McCarthy is such a talented actor that I hope she gets offered a broader range of roles other than to re-create her Bridesmaids character over and over again.  I don’t think that is going to be her next screen appearance either as she’ll co-star with Sandra Bullock in the buddy-cop flick, The Heat.   If you're a McCarthy fan, skip this offering and wait for that one as at least it offers the hope of being so much better.

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