If last year's hit Ted taught us anything, it's that a solid comedy can brighten the horrid material that came before it in the year.
Identity Thief, also from Ted's studio Universal Pictures, manages to turn a sore subject for many in this technological age into a source of laughs, which is less surprising than the heart-warming tale of regret and redemption that isn't advertised in the trailers.
After Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) finds that his identity is stolen, putting his new job at a financial firm at risk and making things hard for his pregnant wife Trish (Amanda Peet), he sets out on a road trip to track down the thief -- a mysterious, tech-savvy firecracker named Diana (Melissa McCarthy) -- to driver her from Florida to Colorado in order to bring her to justice. However, things become complicated when it turns out Diana is in deep with a drug cartel, being chased not only by enforcers Marisol (Genesis Rodriguez) and Juian (rapper T.I.), but a crazed bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) as well, making the road trip bumpier than planned.
Director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) and writer Craig Mazin (The Hangover Part II) manage to make a hot-button issue and create humor out of it. Granted, some of the situations are over-the-top and completely unbelievable (cops take identity theft a lot more seriously than they do in this film), but the well-placed humor and brilliant performances from Bateman and McCarthy keep the film on pace.
While the humor of Identity Thief is superb, what helps the film completely earn its heart is Diana's back story. The explanation why she does what she does, and the connection that grows between her and Sandy, causing Diana to want to change is oddly touching for a film like this, but works in the film's favor to stand out among other comedy misfires like January's Movie 43. Comedy is great, but, much like last year's Ted, becomes even better when it can connect with the heart as well without feeling forced.
FINAL VERDICT: While Identity Thief will have you laughing hysterically, it's the heart of the story that will make you fall in love with this movie. Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy are amazing together, and Craig Mazin's solid script will certainly make Thief another comedy hit for Universal Pictures.