When businessman Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) has his identity stolen, he must track down the thief in order to bring her to justice and clear his name. When he meets Diana (Melissa McCarthy) however, Sandy realises that the journey from Florida to Denver will be a trying one.
Melissa McCarthy exploded into public consciousness with her role in Bridesmaids, and there is little doubt that she is the funniest thing about that film, but Identity Thief seems to be a waste of hers, and Jason Bateman’s talents. Both actors play the same roles that we know and love them for; Bateman is unassuming but tenacious, and McCarthy is inappropriate and vulgar. Sound familiar? By the time the movie reaches its conclusion, the pair have moved closer to one another in terms of personality – and they certainly understand one another more – but there is very little to be learned from this hellish road trip across America.
Craig Mazin’s script is grounded in some sort of reality, but it very quickly becomes farcical; why is the audience being told to root for a man who willingly gave his information out on the phone, thus allowing his identity to be stolen? And if Sandy is not the protagonist but Diana is, then why are we being told to root for a horrible character that does whatever she wants, with little regard for the consequences or the people hurt by her actions? OK, so both reform in the end, but these are not the kinds of characters we can find ourselves rooting for. As well as this, there is a whole other story going on with bounty hunters and assassins that manages to move the film from somewhat believable to the downright ridiculous, and it does very little to redeem itself.
Director Seth Gordon has made some wonderful entertainment in the past, including the fantastic documentary King of Kong and episodes of Parks and Recreation, Community and The Office. As well as this, Gordon brought us Horrible Bosses, a film which was totally over the top but ultimately fun. The same cannot be said for Identity Thief. Thankfully both Bateman and McCarthy have wonderful comic timing, and this saves the day to some extent, but they are both typecast and appear to be left to fend for themselves.
Identity Thief should have been a brilliant comedy from a talented writer and an experienced director, but instead the film falls flat and the odd chuckle is not enough to save it. There is a line between heightened and ridiculous, but Identity Thief appears oblivious to it. There are some funny moments, but Bateman and McCarthy appear bored, which is what the audience will be after an hour of this film.