By Conrad Foreman, Daily Arts Writer
Published February 12, 2013
When you first heard of “Identity Thief,” you probably had one of two thoughts about this road-trip comedy: 1. Woah! Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy! Together?! This is going to be the best movie ever! or 2. Oh my God, how are they going to waste these two great comedic talents?
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If you thought the latter, you were on the right track.
Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman, “Horrible Bosses”) is a husband and father of two, with one more on the way, awaiting a promotion that his elitist boss (Jon Favreau, “Iron Man”) doesn’t want to give him. Just when it looks as though things are looking up for Sandy, he realizes that his credit card is empty thanks to Diana (Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”), a con-woman who has stolen his identity. Threatened with the loss of his job and his good name, and discouraged by the lack of police effort, Sandy flies to Florida to convince Diana to return with him to Denver, where he will trick her into confessing her crime.
What you get with “Identity Thief” is a comedy attempting to capitalize on the consistently great performances of Jason Bateman and the rising star of Melissa McCarthy. But the film doesn’t reach its full potential, due to lazy writing embodied in a sloppy story and several jokes that don’t deliver the laughs you’re expecting — screenwriter Craig Mazin (“The Hangover Part II”) repeatedly dishes out disappointing and repetitive punchlines.
The best example of this is when McCarthy comforts Bateman after a car crash, “At least the rental car’s OK.” You can probably guess what’s not OK after the next shot — cliché, predictable, a joke that’s been done countless times before.
The script also does no justice to Bateman’s character. It’s one of the fundamental facts of the film that he is a sucker, but come on, he’s going to continually leave his keys in the ignition or out of his sight around a woman who has already stolen his identity and attempted to steal his car? It just doesn’t make sense for a character that comes off as quite intelligent for much of the film.
The subplots spawned from three characters (the most annoying of whom is portrayed by rapper Clifford “Tip” “T.I.” Harris Jr.) trying to capture Diana feel empty and forced in order to add excitement and action to the story. The backstory behind their pursuit is never explained, and the only way these bounty hunters are able to keep track of their target is through lucky and unrealistic coincidence — like overhearing her whereabouts while driving by the site of their car crash on the highway, as if the witness of the crash is speaking in Dolby Digital Surround Sound.
One must wonder why Bateman and McCarthy (who hasn’t been able to come close to matching her breakout performance in “Bridesmaids” from 2011) agreed to star in “Identity Thief.” Sure, it will make you laugh a few times, especially at the very end. But all in all, it’s just another in a long line of duo road-trip comedies (“Due Date” and “The Guilt Trip” come to mind, just to name a couple recent ones) that will quickly fade from the memory of most viewers.