The early trailers for “Identity Thief” gave hope of a playful and hilarious partnership of comedy between Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, but the unique storyline of identity theft is not given a chance; it overshadowed by a buddy road trip story, an ugly-duckling-to-swan development, and too many supporting characters driving the plot to absurdity.
Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Jason Bateman) is a predictable, rule-abiding citizen with an average life. When a woman (Melissa McCarthy) steals his identity and puts him into serious debt, Sandy is forced to chase her down to bring her to justice, clear his name, and save his job. He realizes his task is much more complicated because she is being chased by criminals (Genesis Rodriguez and T.I.) and a bounty hunter (Robert Patrick).
In some ways, “Identity Thief” works. The primary goal appears to be an attempt at making Melissa McCarthy’s character understandable; she’s given a sob story to explain who she is and garner sympathy. We are supposed to feel like we, too, have judged her unfairly. Though the film succeeds in making you mostly respect McCarthy’s character, this plot destroys the comedy. Instead of being a comedy, it feels like the comedic attempts invade McCarthy’s serious potential. Like the strangers she comes across, the audience is encouraged to laugh at her looks (and hope that they’re laughing at her hair and not her body type) so that she can transform into a swan at the end. Director Seth Gordon seems to want to support McCarthy’s acting potential, but it’s diluted since we’re supposed to laugh at her as much as we’re supposed to laugh at her comedy.
I only laughed out loud once. Though I might not be the easiest to entertain with comedy, the audience in full laughed together for only a few scenes, the consensus suggesting less humor than suspected. “Identity Thief” falls in the trap in which most of the funny moments are displayed in the trailer and therefore lose their humor by the time one views the film.
I respect that Seth Gordon tried to give McCarthy a role worthy of her talent, but the film is too inconsistent and covers far too many storylines to let her truly shine. Bateman is standard, clean-cut Bateman, the odd couple road trip storyline has been used up, and the bad guys chasing are absurd. In this case, her glow is eclipsed.
Rating for “Identity Thief:” C-
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
A week after its release, “Identity Thief” is still playing at most theaters in Columbus, including Movie Tavern Mill Run and Rave Polaris. For showtimes, click here.