Synopsis: Just as his life is finally beginning to take off, Sandy Patterson’s (Jason Bateman) path to the top takes an unexpected twist when he is arrested and charged with a litany of offenses. He is only cleared when it is discovered that his identity has been stolen by Diana (Melissa McCarthy), a ne’er-do-well with an extensive credit fraud history. With his new job on the line and the Denver police proving worthless, Sandy heads down to Florida with the intention of finding Diana and bringing her back home to answer for her crimes. But Diana is into something much bigger and soon the two of them begin a hijinks-filled cross-country trip that might just result in friendship. What I Liked: Truth be told, I expected Identity Thief to be an all-around miserable experience. The trailers are HORRIBLE, McCarthy is getting old rather fast, and as much as I love him, Bateman is seriously hit or miss. So maybe my expectations were so low that I couldn’t be disappointed but there is a lot more to like with Identity Thief than I would have ever dreamed. Bateman’s character is more likeable and less pathetic than many of his other characters have been of late and Bateman sells it quite well. And while McCarthy is just doing the same thing that she does in every role, it’s slightly more reined in than you might think and most of the time her performance works. The two leads have decent comedic chemistry and when Identity Thief is at its best, it’s usually just banter between Bateman and McCarthy. I fully expect that the next McCarthy film, April’s The Heat, will push her into complete overexposure but as this movie progressed, I found myself chuckling along with her more and more often. The story also has significantly more heart than I anticipated and Seth Gordon uses that in the right measure. There are similarities between Identity Thief and 2010’s Due Date but whereas the latter was one of the more mean spirited, heartless comedies of the last few years, the former comes in with a little warmth that harkens back to the John Hughes classic Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
What I Didn’t Like: The biggest issue I had with Identity Thief is the putrid script. I can honestly say I wasn’t familiar with writer Craig Mazin’s name so I was completely unbiased. Looking at his IMDB page afterward, I discovered that he is responsible for such masterpieces as The Hangover Part II and not one but two Scary Movie sequels. That sort of pedigree definitely comes through in Identity Thief which requires at least a dozen MacGuffins just to get the plot rolling. It’s a messy, sloppy execution of a premise that isn’t entirely worthless. I would say that Gordon did his best to make the script work but there’s only so much you can do when you’re dealing with a lazy screenplay like this one is. In addition, many of the supporting actors are miscast or misused, and this applies most notably to rapper-turned-actor T.I. who plays a gangster searching for Diana. Having now seen T.I. in three films, I feel good about saying that there has never been a person in the history of the cinema who had less talent than T.I. does. He should never, EVER, be allowed to appear in a movie again. Not even home movies.
The Verdict: Perhaps my extremely limited expectations set me up for this, but I found Identity Thief to be mildly enjoyable and altogether harmless. I don’t want to see it again but it’s not a completely worthless endeavor when it’s all said and done.
Identity Thief Director: Seth Gordon Cast: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Genesis Rodriguez Rated: R (some strong language, one comically graphic scene of sexuality) Recommended For: People with low expectations age 16+