“One week, Patterson,” says Daniel Casey (John Cho), “that’s all you get.” He’s Sandy Patterson’s (Jason Bateman) boss. Someone (Melissa McCarthy) has stolen Sandy’s identity and, using his name, is maxing out Sandy’s credit cards and running afoul of the police. The courts have issued an arrest warrant so, unless Sandy can bring the identity thief from Florida to Denver (where Sandy lives) and prove his innocence, his job and family’s security is on the line.
Who is the identity thief? (Well, I already told you, but it’s not a spoiler.) Can timid Sandy successfully play a bounty hunter? How many times will you hear the same joke? To find out, you’ll have to watch “Identity Thief.”
Melissa McCarthy is identity thief “Diana” — probably not her character’s real name. McCarthy does excellent slapstick physical comedy, bawdy humor, and quick jabs to the throat, all with expert timing, as well as an occasional touching scene, telling “Diana’s” back story. “Identity Thief” is McCarthy’s movie. I only wish it were a better one. Jason Bateman is sensitive Sandy Bigelow Patterson (sounds like a woman’s name, as everyone says). He’s McCarthy’s straight man, so guileless he shares his Social Security number with an unknown telephone caller. Given that his job is in-house accounts manager for an investment company, that’s a little hard to believe. “Society can’t function without rules,” he says.
Others in the cast include Amanda Peet as Trish, Sandy’s docile wife, Jon Favreau as Harold Cornish, Sandy’s horrible boss, and Robert Patrick as Skiptracer, a genuine, no-nonsense bounty hunter. Eric Stonestreet is Big Chuck and T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez play a drug dealer’s hit persons.
“Identity Thief” is an over-the-top, not very smart comedy-action flick, a one-joke romp for Melissa McCarthy. Directed by Seth Gordon, scripted by Craig Mazin with Jerry Eeten, it’s marketed as a comedy, but you’ve seen most of the jokes that work in the preview. It’s an odd-couple road movie in which, we expect, characters learn life-lessons from each other. From Sandy, Diana could learn a lot. She’s a crude, hard-drinking, self-absorbed shopaholic, maybe a pathological liar with bad taste in clothes. You get the picture. What Sandy might learn is harder is imagine — more self-confidence, perhaps, and assertiveness. It’s a movie that wants to be a character-driven redemption story but can’t resist a cheap joke.
Rated R for sex and language, “Identity Thief” runs 112 minutes, but may seem longer. I’d watch “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (1987) instead.
Dumb “Identity Thief,”
Missing it would be wise.