‘Identity Thief’ is a two-stooges take on what, ultimately, turns into an absurd buddy comedy.
The full-on buffoonery begins when strait-laced Denver business accountant and family man Sandy Patterson (Justin Bateman) finds himself unwittingly duped over the phone out of his personal information by Florida con artist Diana (Melissa McCarthy). Printing numerous credit cards and ID’s in Patterson’s name, Diana quickly becomes ‘Sandy Patterson Bigelow’ and goes on repeated no-holds-barred, bipolar-esque shopping, restaurant, and alcohol-buying sprees in her home state, replete with drunken run-ins with the law. Mr. Patterson soon becomes aware (through cancelled credit cards and at-work police visits) that his identity has been stolen but finds that the Colorado police can do little to help him solve this out-of-state affair. Bateman’s character then not-so-wisely decides to travel to Florida and to bring back ‘Sandy Patterson Bigelow,’ so she can be taken into custody in Colorado. Much of the rest of the film becomes a ‘Midnight Run’ meets ‘Planes, Trains, and Automobiles’ attempt to get cross-country, as Diana and Sandy have to also avoid being caught by other thugs seeing revenge for Diana’s thievery.
Although most obviously a comedy, ‘Identity Thief’ initially touches on dark issues such as economic downturn and alienation. At first, Sandy is told by his co-worker (John Cho) that he is ‘the best’ at the financial work that he does, but he is caught in a limited-pay job with a boss who does not even know his name. Further, Diana’s character appears very lonely and unable to connect with others unless she buys herself the limelight during her non-stop spending and drinking sprees. Unfortunately, the film does very little with its potential for dark, culturally relevant satire and, instead, stays very superficial, going for big-belly mondo laughs at the near-total expense of linearity and believability. Potentially catastrophic injuries abound throughout the movie (body blows, throat punches, car accidents, shootings), but nothing significant ever happens to the seemingly regenerative characters.
Bateman predictably, as in so many of his comedy roles, attempts to play the straight-man/moral center to the comedy chaos, and does so in a likable, but perfunctory, manner. McCarthy attempts to go full-tilt with her con artist personality, injecting every scene with total nuttiness, but even her dazzling attempt to be a ‘con-with-heart-of-gold’ does not save a movie ripe with outlandish scenarios and an uneven script.
This reviewer really wanted to like ‘Identity Thief’ but its shallow absurdity (and misplaced raunchiness) left little behind other than a few laughs. Instead, dust off a copy of McCarthy’s Oscar-nominated performance in the far-superior ‘Bridesmaids’ and have a much better night at the movies.
‘Identity Thief’ is rated R for sexual content and language. It opens today, nationwide, and at theaters across San Antonio.
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