By Gary '10 to 5 for good behavior' Murray
Starring Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy and Amanda Peet
Written by Craig Mazin
Directed by Seth Gordon
Running time 112 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Melissa McCarthy is on the precipice of becoming one of the biggest comedy stars on the planet. She has been bringing the funny on the CBS show Mike and Molly and basically stole the spotlight from Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids. Her latest break-out starring role is Identity Thief.
The story starts with a phone call to Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman). He is told by a ‘customer service representative’ of an ‘extra protection’ needed to secure his credit cards. It is a scam and this Colorado bank executive turns all his personal information over to Diana (Melissa McCarthy). To push the plot along, he has become fed-up with his big boss (Jon Favreau) at the bank and leaves with the rest of the employees to form their own company.
Very soon, Sandy finds out that someone has stolen his identity. This puts his position with the newly formed company in serious jeopardy. The police are of no help and let him know that to clear his name will take at least a year. So, Sandy decides to take matters in his own hands. He makes plans to do down to Florida, get the scammer to come back with him to clear his name and take the blame. His wife (Amanda Peet) thinks that it is a bad idea but eventually relents.
His tracking down of Diana happens easily enough. It is just that the woman is part of different nefarious scams. Two bad guys are dispensed by their incarcerated crime boss to take Diana out. Since Diana used Sandy’s name, a Sandy Patterson is wanted for skipping a court appearance. A skip tracer (Robert Patrick) is dispatched to bring back female Sandy. With these two groups after Diana/female Sandy, the woman sees that a trip out of Florida and to Colorado would be for her best interest.
So, before on can say ‘road trip’, we get one of the oldest staples of cinematic comedy—the traveling miss-matched buddy comedy.
As Sandy and Diana travel the length and breadth of this mighty land, they get into wacky mishaps. They fight and bond as they go across country. Of course, things are going to happen to their modes of transportation. He is a milquetoast guy and she is an overbearing soul. Soon, they begin to learn from each other. He becomes more assertive and she understands the consequences of her crimes.
The film is more of a series of skits strung together than an actual motion picture. While some of the scenes are funny, they never truly build on themselves. The biggest set scene is one where Diana picks-up a local and they eventually do the dirty deed. It is very over the top, gross and extremely funny. But is the kind of a scene one is instantly embarrassed for laughing at.
This film is rated R for a comedic sex scene and multiple uses of foul language. This is not a flick for the kids or the easily offended. The problem is that with just a few cuts, this could have been a PG-13 film, something more suited for a wider audience.
While Jason Bateman plays his basic, rote Jason Bateman character. There is not much here than we have seen in a dozen of his performances.
The real reason to see Identity Thief is for Melissa McCarthy. This rotund actress expertly steals moment after moment in the film while simultaneously stealing the audience’s hearts. Like many of her comic predecessors, she finds humanity in a severely flawed character. Her Diana is not a bad person as much as she is a misunderstood one. Basically, she uses stuff to replace love and finds that it is no substitute. There are a few moments where she gets to show a non-comedic side and just nails the pathos.
Just about all of my friends and family have been affected by identity theft. It is a horrible crime that hurts the reputations of the innocent. But a film is not reality. There are so many wrong plot-points that drive Identity Thief it would make a law-enforcement officer head spin. Making fun of it may not be the most satisfying way to spend an afternoon. Identity Thief is a nice diversion of a film but in no way a classic motion picture. It is something to catch on a rainy day when there is little else to do.