Consistency derails ‘Identity Thief’

  • The threat of identity theft is a relatable concern. Being chased by hillbilly bounty hunters and violent criminal organizations is considerably less likely.

    That’s the kind of antics Jason Bateman must face in “Identity Thief,” a broad and overfamiliar comedy that follows the outline of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

    Bateman does what he does best here – playing the suffering straight man against the manic comedic force of Melissa McCarthy. Bateman plays financial analyst Sandy Patterson, and within the film’s opening seconds, he’s relinquished his social security number over the phone to McCarthy’s con artist Diana. She goes on a lavish spending spree that eventually leaves Sandy with thousands of dollars in credit card debt and even a warrant out for his arrest.

    With the police offering little assistance and his job contingent on good financial standing (kind of a stretch), Sandy decides to travel from Denver to Florida to confront his identity thief and bring her back to clear his good name.

    If the setup sounds like a stretch of the imagination, then the rest of the film should be considered outright fantasy. A third of the way through, “Identity Thief” morphs into a road comedy, where Sandy and Diana bicker as the tightly-wound stickler and the flamboyant loudmouth. Sound familiar?

    Together they wreck numerous cars, tangle with venomous snakes and fend off professional criminals (Diana’s credit card scheming isn’t limited to soft-spoken bankers). The movie’s broad physical humor works less and less as the scenarios grow more ridiculous.

    Bateman and McCarthy are likable actors, and they both work hard to maintain momentum, even when the episodic stops along the road are more miss than hit. Their roadside arguments are the film’s funniest moments, and McCarthy actually manages the daunting task of making her character sympathetic even despite her abrasive lawbreaking.

    “Identity Thief” works in fits and starts solely because of Bateman and McCarthy.  Unfortunately the movie too often settles into obvious and forgettable tropes. There’s a running gag about Sandy’s feminine name that doesn’t work the first time and grows even more tiresome every time it resurfaces.

    The film is directed Seth Gordon, who worked with Bateman on “Horrible Bosses.” Both films are R-rated, but “Identity Thief” doesn’t justify its raunchiness with much wit. There are laughs from the likeable leads, just nothing consistent enough to leave much an impression past the final credits.

    Grade: C+


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