Movies: Identity Thief

We know going in that Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman are very funny people. We know that because we’ve seen Bridesmaids, Horrible Bosses, Arrested Development (which is coming back on TV!) and other things they’ve done. We know the same of director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) and writer Craig Mazin (The Hangover Part II). Knowing all that, it’s difficult to understand why their newest film, Identity Thief is such a mess.

Sandy (Jason Bateman) has chased identity thief Diana (Melissa McCarthy) to her Miami home. Now, against their wills, they’re off on a cross-country road trip.
Photo by Bob Mahoney – © 2013, Universal Pictures

Now, it’s a clever idea. Diana (McCarthy) lives the high life in Miami by stealing the identities of others. This time, she’s stolen the identity of Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Bateman). He vows to regain his identity and sets off to find her. The idea of a woman stealing an identity from a man with a unisex name is, indeed, clever. But, what ensues is tired, predictable and, really, not very funny. Of course, there are funny moments. But McCarthy repeatedly punching people in the throat does not give us many laughs.

Also in the cast are Amanda Peet as Patterson’s wife and Jon Favreau as his boss. They don’t do much so they aren’t able to add much. The one bright spot in the supporting cast is Eric Stonestreet, half of the gay couple on TV’s Modern Family. Here he is Big Chuck, a lonely redneck widower Diana meets in a bar and takes back to the motel room she shares with Sandy. There, Diana and Chuck they have loud, hee-haw sex. Stonestreet is unrecognizable and, compared to his Modern Family character, he’s a real surprise.

No one has better dimples or a more dazzling smile than Melissa McCarthy. No one can be more earnest and sympathetic than Jason Bateman. Here, however, they are ill-used and, mostly, pathetic. She’s the kind of woman Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem would have sued for female malpractice, as she’s every bad cliche about women. Bateman is mostly a punching bag, the kind of guy you used to see on all those “father-as-doofus” sitcoms.

If you see Identity Thief, promise yourself you won’t think about it afterwards. The more you do, the worse it gets. The cast and their audience deserve much better.


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