“Identity Thief” Movie Review


     The road movie genre is an easy one to venture into, but tough when churning out an original piece of work may be the goal.  When director Seth Gordon and screenwriter Craig Mazin concocted their vision for "Identity Thief", I wonder if they simply watched "Dumb and Dumber" first and then using that film's framework built a story around star Melissa McCarthy the same way the Farrelly brothers did with Jim Carrey.  I suppose we can't expect much from a studio film around this time of year, but you'd think the filmmakers wouldn't be so obvious.  "Identity Thief" brings nothing new to the table and as is the case with a number of comedies, the best parts are in the trailer and thus have a limited on screen impact.  As far as Seth Gordon's work here, the film plays more along the lines of "Four Christmases" in terms of quality, rather than "Horrible Bosses" which is his best film to date.

     I have mixed feelings about McCarthy and how she conducts herself as a comedic actress.  Let's be honest here.  She and the filmmakers do everything they can to exploit the fact she's overweight.  It's almost as if she's a novelty played to full effect since nearly every one of her peers is skinny as a rail.  When her performance is accompanied by a good script, her slap stick qualities seem to work well as they did in a limited role in "This is 40".  When the script gives her little to work with, she's forced to use her physical appearance to play the audience for a few cheap laughs and that's what she does mainly in this film. 

     Ever dependable as always, Jason Bateman plays Sandy Patterson, an accounts manager at an investment firm who is barely making ends meet with a wife, two kids, and another on the way.  Early in the film, he falls for an over the phone scam in which he knowingly gives out his date of birth and social security number to McCarthy's character, who in turn steals his identity and goes on a spending spree.  Sandy becomes aware of this when he is arrested for charges in Florida, a case of mistaken identity of course.  As in most films like this, the cops are portrayed as helpless and bumbling which forces Sandy to venture on his own to Florida to bring back the person who has stolen his identity.

     It doesn't take him long to find Diana (McCarthy), who immediately incapacitates Sandy with a "Three Stooges" style punch to the throat (her trademark apparently) and then proceeds to ram him and his vehicle off the road.  The audience now knows Sandy is in over his head, yet that doesn't stop him from continuing to Diana's house, breaking in, and kidnapping her.  His intention is to bring her back to Denver under the ruse that she needs to save his job by telling his boss she is responsible for his financial woes and trouble with the law.  In theory this conversation would be taped and given to the police who would then clear Sandy's name.  Of course none of this goes according  to plan.

     As Sandy, who is relentlessly made fun of by everyone in the film for his female sounding name, and Diana make their way towards Denver, they run into a number of familiar pit falls designed to create sketch comedy like situations for the two actors.  Bateman has taken Ben Stiller's place as the constantly victimized protagonist.  The nice guy who no matter what he does always seems to finish last.  McCarthy simply does anything she can do to be disgusting.  Remember, she became famous in "Bridesmaids" for defecating in a bathroom sink, so I imagine she must be in a constant state of trying to top herself.  Like the aforementioned "Dumb and Dumber", there are hit men on their trail as well as the obligatory stops at cheap motels and road side diners.  There's really nothing to laugh about in any of these scenes as the filmmakers were desperate enough to have McCarthy irritating Bateman by singing to the radio in the car.  We've seen all of this before, just with different actors and characters.  Ironically, this is a case of the filmmakers stealing the identity of better films, victimizing the audience as they walk away with a paycheck.  GRADE: D