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Identity Thief


This article was published February 8, 2013 at 2:55 a.m.


Diana/Sandy (Melissa McCarthy) gets down with Big Chuck (Eric Stonestreet) in Seth Gordon’s Identity Thief.

— Melissa McCarthy generated an inordinate number of laughs by relieving herself in a sink in Bridesmaids, so it would be safe to think her career would have nowhere to go but up. Sadly, not all bodily dysfunction gags are created equal.

For all of their flaws, the movies Judd Apatow produces tend to have sympathetic characters and astute real-world observations to go with the sex and human waste. Without a little brain and heart to go with the digestive issues, it gets old quickly.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing the outtakes that run during the credits of Apatow’s This Is 40 (instead of the movie itself) knows that McCarthy has a terabyte drive’s worth of vulgar insults in her head that she can call up at random. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a story that maximizes her gift for gross-out invention.

Identity Thief, her first starring vehicle, gets off to a shaky start and never recovers. A financial analyst named Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) must be very good because all the other characters continually remind us how skilled he is.

That’s a little hard to believe because Sandy takes a call from a stranger and freely gives her his Social Security number and other valuable data. Thanks to his “unisex” name, a licentious alcoholic named Diana (McCarthy) uses Sandy’s vital statistics to run up insanely high bills from Florida.

By the time Sandy discovers that he’s been scammed, he also discovers that prosecuting identity theft and recovering his credit and good name are not easy processes.

Pardon my asking, but wouldn’t a financial analyst already know this?

The same clear thinking that made him fall into Diana’s clutches leads him to fly from Colorado to Florida to persuade her to confess to her crimes.

Director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) and screenwriter Craig Mazin (one of the minds behind Senseless and Scary Movie 3) haven’t thought out how Sandy could rent a car without a valid credit card or how he could persuade the seemingly incorrigible Diana to fly back to Denver with him. If you’ve got enough time to think the situation through more thoroughly than Sandy does, it’s a safe bet the movie isn’t working.

Most of Identity Thief is built around McCarthy’s ability to shed any inhibition she might have off screen. In Bridesmaids, she also showed a remarkable ability to play pathos as well, which enabled viewers to laugh with her instead of at her.

Mazin’s attempts to make Diana more human feel forced, so whenever McCarthy isn’t singing along with the radio or moving in a way that belies her ample frame, the laughs simply don’t come.

Identity Thief runs nearly two hours and feels even longer. Gordon should consult the long-winded Apatow for lessons in pacing and brevity. If the cross-country trip weren’t enough to make an interesting tale (sadly it isn’t), Sandy and Diana fleeing three hired thugs (T.I., Genesis Rodriguez and Robert Patrick) isn’t any fun either.

Bateman has a producer credit but yet has failed to find himself a worthwhile role. Perhaps he should reread the script. If he does, he’ll feel as wronged as Sandy is in the movie.

Identity Thief 68 Cast: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, T.I., Genesis Rodriguez, Morris Chestnut, John Cho, Robert Patrick, Eric Stonestreet Director: Seth Gordon Rating: R, for sexual content and language Running time: 111 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 02/08/2013

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... February 8, 2013 at 3:06 a.m.

Thanks for the warning.

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