Melissa McCarthy is on top of the world; she has a hit sitcom, and was nominated for an Oscar for Bridesmaids, and now she has a chance to headline a comedy of her very own, from the director of one of the funniest movies in recent memory, Horrible Bosses. Can Melissa, with help from co-star Jason Bateman, break out as a leading lady in a starring role? The answer is a resounding yes; unfortunately, Identity Thief is a dud of a star vehicle, so she’ll have to wait for the next go-round to really prove herself as a leading lady.
The problem is not in the concept, nor in any lack of heart; the movie simply is not very funny. The core of the cast, McCarthy’s Diana and Bateman’s Sandy, are well-written and fully-defined. After Diana steals Sandy’s identity (his unisex name is the butt of one-too-many easy jokes) and gets him into both financial and criminal trouble, the only choice left to our middle-class hero is to journey from his home in Colorado, pick up his foe in Florida, and drive back with her so she can confess her crimes and clear Sandy’s name, a task which, in the name of comedy, proves to be easier said than done. As it turns out, Sandy is not the only one on Diana’s trail, as a bounty hunter, played by Robert Patrick, and a pair of criminal enforcers who are aiming to collect some of Diana’s own debts want to bring her down, and will stop at nothing to bring her in. Further, Diana is something of an unwilling passenger on this trip, leading to even more antics. Unfortunately, despite all this conflict, despite all the possibilities for fresh takes on tired-and-true situations, most of the attempts at humor underwhelm, if they don’t fail entirely. A minor supporting role by Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet is all but completely wasted with uninspiring sexually deviant humor. McCarthy and Bateman are doing their best to save face (their delivery regarding another running gag, involving the unfortunate fate of Jason Bateman’s penis), but even they cannot save themselves from the lame script which tries too hard to squeeze cheap laughs from pedantic jokes and clichéd situations. The supporting cast, from Jon Favreau and John Cho to Robert Patrick, Genesis Rodriguez, and T.I., are all underutilized to a certain degree, not that T.I. has ever had much to add to any movie (Takers, anyone?), and serve more as plot devices than as actual characters.
Ultimately, Identity Thief is one of those comedies which earns a bigger reaction from its budget-devouring stunts (mostly involving cars) than any of its jokes, although big kudos are deserved for making the sight of a woman being hit by a speeding car absolutely hilarious. The movie feels like it exists purely as a result of a perfect storm of timeliness: Melissa’s rising star, the successful formula of Seth Gordon’s previous film, Horrible Bosses, and Jason Bateman’s willingness to star in anything. The result, like any number of pop acts designed to copy the success of a surprise hit, is a shallow and soulless cash-in, headlined by stars who fight, but fail, an uphill battle against a bad film.
Jason Bateman has magical career insurance. The man can do absolutely anything and we’ll always see him as America’s sweetheart. Melissa McCarthy is so beloved, and she gives it all she can, so she will surely emerged unscathed from this incident, so the long-term damage from this misfire should be minimal. Instead of watching Identity Thief, either re-watch Horrible Bosses, or check out Seth Gordon’s cancelled-too-soon television series, Breaking In. That show was awesome, man. Gone too soon. Too soon.
Rating: MediocreCool Posts Around The Web: