When it comes to comedies, I’m always scared that the studio put many of the funniest scenes in the trailer. Unfortunately, that is what happened with Identity Thief. Identity Thief is a slapstick comedy with disjointed jokes and outlandish plot points. By the middle of the second act, I was already wondering how much time was left in the film. With such fantastic comedic leads as Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), it’s unfortunate that screenwriter Craig Mazin’s (Hangover II) script couldn’t rise to their level of talent.
Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Bateman… and at some points McCarthy) is a caring family man stuck in a low-paying dead-end job with a horrible boss (Jon Favreau). He has just enough money to support his wife (Amanda Peet) and two kids, but they can’t afford any luxuries; that is, until he and his coworkers quit their jobs and go out on their own. At his new job, Sandy is a Vice President with a great salary. Cue Diana (McCarthy). After stealing Sandy’s identity through a phone scam, Diana takes it upon herself to run up his credit cards and drain his bank account. This poses a problem for Sandy when clients from his new firm run a background check and find he is in financial ruin. In order to save his job, Sandy promises to bring the identity thief to Colorado to confess her crimes and clear his name.
After Sandy finds Diana in Florida, a dull road trip comedy emerges, full of corny, obvious jokes and a pointless B story involving a bounty hunter, assassins and snakes (Oh my!). Eric Stonestreet’s (Modern Family) cameo doesn’t work well in the story and is a bit more disturbing than it is funny. Another disappointing aspect of the film was that a lot of its humor was at McCarthy’s expense. There were many unnecessary jokes about her size and appearance that ended up being more heartbreaking than funny.
Although this is billed as a comedy, I left the theater feeling more depressed than happy. Not just because the movie was bad but because the dramatic elements of this comedy were what really resonated with me; perhaps this should have been a drama instead of a comedy. Diana’s motivation for stealing identities stems partly from the fact she is extremely lonely and has to constantly deal with people laughing at her appearance; she wants other people to feel the same hurt she feels (while admittedly also feeding her shopping addiction). McCarthy has proven herself to be one of the funniest comediennes in Hollywood. She is a fantastic, scene-stealing actress who completely throws herself into her roles, losing all semblances of herself amidst her character. It was refreshing to see she has dramatic acting chops as well.
The one thing Identity Thief does well is prove that Melissa McCarthy can carry her own movie; she no longer has to be the best friend, or in the case of Bridesmaids a sister-in-law. She and Bateman did the best they could with a bad script. Hopefully McCarthy’s next comedy, The Heat, with Sandra Bullock, will match her talent instead of bringing it down.
My score: D+/C-