Release date: 4th April 2013
Director: Seth Gordon
Cast: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, Jon Favreau, Eric Stonestreet
Review by Peter Gray
In what is a sense of delicious irony, ‘Identity Thief’ is the kind of film that struggles to find an identity of its own as it’s clearly modelling itself after ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles’ with Jason Bateman taking the role of the incensed straight man ala Steve Martin to Melissa McCarthy’s overtly unpolished John Candy. There’s nothing wrong with borrowing another films structure per se, it’s just here everything is so jumbled and shapeless that it has trouble finding its feet; thankfully it has two saviours in the form of Bateman and McCarthy who steer the vehicle enough to keep it from coming to a complete halt.
Bateman (essentially playing himself) is Sandy Patterson, a stressed father and husband who has seen his morning go from bad to worse when he is informed that his identity has been stolen. Now in a slew of debt with his name declining to the ground he learns a dishevelled thief, Diana (McCarthy), is responsible and, in a string of logic that only makes sense in the cinematic world, he travels from Denver to Florida in a bid to apprehend her and bring her back to face charges and clear his name. Once he meets the highly displeasing Diana, Sandy learns she’s in a whole muddle of trouble with two gangsters (Genesis Rodriguez and Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris) on her trail following some bad credit card information she sold to their incarcerated boss, and a bounty hunter of sorts (Robert Patrick) looking to clean up her mess. It’s all so ludicrous and unnecessary but screenwriter Craig Mazin had to come up with some kind of ploy to put Sandy and Diana together for the long haul and so these lightweight villains seemed to be the most viable option, with the road trip the duo take allowing such shenanigans as a bizarre, almost intimate encounter, with small town hick Big Chuck (Eric Stonestreet), countless car accidents, and a sleep-over in the woods that ends with a bite.
There’s a clear lack of common sense with this film, in no situation would Sandy and Diana ever form any kind of friendship, but suspension of disbelief is the films DNA and even though Bateman’s “poor me” demeanour is nothing new and McCarthy squeezing out every profanity laced barb she can is rather predictable – not to mention the overuse of her characters penchant for punching people in the throat – it somehow works because the chemistry between the two succeeds. Bateman is usually a likeable presence on screen, and here is no exception but its McCarthy’s feature through and through and your enjoyment of the film will essentially boil down to whether or not you’re a fan. With ‘Bridesmaids’ and now this, McCarthy is clearly happy to own the vulgar, incessantly loud female whose fragile soul is eventually revealed, and one of the reasons she succeeds on screen is due to her ability to get us to laugh both with and at her; She might be pigeon-holing herself in her career, but you have to hand it to the comedienne for taking an unlikeable character and making us care.
With all the collective talent on board (the likes of Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet and John Cho complete the solid support cast) ‘Identity Thief’ should’ve been a much funnier final product, but similar to the recent underwhelming effort that was ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’, its shortcomings are made up for in the infectious appeal of its leads, particularly McCarthy who deserves to have her comedic talents displayed in a stronger production.
My rating 3/5 (McCarthy steals the show)