I’ve spent the past day trying against all odds to muster the energy to write a review for Identity Thief. And even now, I still can’t find any reason to give two shits about the movie. It’s not good enough to praise, and it’s not awful enough to inspire any sort of rage. It’s just…there. It’s not the kind of movie you actually pay to see. It’s the kind of movie that you watch on Comedy Central five years later when you’re hung over on an early Sunday morning and there’s literally nothing else on television.
Identity Thief is a graveyard of wasted talent. The only thing that gives me some consolation is that the talented members of the cast surely made out like bandits. The movie takes well known comedic actors such as Melissa McCarthy, Jason Bateman, John Cho, and Eric Stonestreet and throws them into a blender with respected character actors such as Robert Patrick, John Favreau, and Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks. All of this in the service of a silly little road trip movie about a mild-mannered stiff who travels from Colorado to Florida in order to apprehend the sociopath who stole his identity.
This movie should have been great. Melissa McCarthy has proven herself to be one of the funniest women in Hollywood over the course of the past couple of years. She’s probably the only woman in the history of the industry to excel at slapstick comedy. She’s taken on a male-dominated form of entertainment and beaten most of the guys at their own game.
It’s always been funny when guys like Jim Carrey or Chris Farley get hit with a blunt object or suffer a nasty fall. However, I’ve never found it funny when women have tried the same thing. That’s not to say that there aren’t funny female comedians out there. From Lucille Ball to Kristen Wiig, there has been no shortage of legitimately funny women in the industry. However, I’ve typically never found the sight of a woman getting hit by a car to be all the funny…until Melissa McCarthy came along. She’s probably the only comedienne to ever elicit guffaws from a crowded audience by getting hit in the face with a blunt object. She’s a rare talent, and if she had been allowed to dominate the movie, Identity Thief may well have turned out to be the best comedy of the year.
Unfortunately, she and her co-stars are left to the mercy of an overscripted comedy and a tone deaf director. The protagonist of the movie is Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman), a middle class schlub who finds himself facing financial disaster after a professional crook (Melissa McCarthy) cons him out of his personal information. In an effort to clear his name, Patterson hops on a plane to Florida with the hopes of dragging the woman back to Denver to face criminal charges. Of course, he’s not the only enemy she’s made, and pretty soon both of them are dodging bounty hunters and gangsters. Bateman gets punched in the throat several times and McCarthy gets in no fewer than three auto accidents.
Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman are pros. They share a nice comedic chemistry. Just a movie about the two of them traveling halfway across the country together could have turned out to be another Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Instead, Identity Thief just a watered down knock off of Midnight Run.
The movie is just too long and busy for its own good. Too much time is devoted to the machinations of the plot, which involve our two hapless protagonists running from bad guys. There are probably three or four truly great scenes in the movie—mostly during seemingly improvised stretches in which Bateman, McCarthy, or Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet are on the screen together. However, before the actors can settle into a groove, the plot hurls them into another flurry of mostly boring scenarios. The movie’s few legitimately good moments are just swallowed by the general mediocrity of the picture.
The best thing I can say about Identity Thief is Jason Bateman’s presence reminded me that Season 4 of Arrested Development is premiering on Netflix this spring. Hopefully playing Michael Bluth again will remind the rest of Hollywood of how talented Bateman really is, and maybe he’ll be treated to something better than this.
Now there’s something to get excited about.