“Identity Thief”, the new comedy starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, is a clumsy comedy that gets trapped up in far-fetched plot, and forgets to be funny for long stretches at a time.
When Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Justin Bateman) falls for a phone scam, he soon finds his identity compromised. Somewhere in Florida, a woman (Melissa McCarthy) is using his name to ring up massive credit card bills, purchase large ticket items like boats and cars, and worst of all, get in trouble with the law and skip out on trial because it’s not her real identity anyways.
Back home, this leaves the real Sandy Bigelow Patterson in debt, in trouble with the police, and worst of all, in trouble with his employer. He’s just landed a coveted new job, and he would hate to see it lost due to this regrettable situation. Unfortunately, the cops are no help at all. Even if the Denver police could get the Florida police to help them, she would be in the Florida system, and thus no help to Patterson’s problems in Colorado.
He’s left with no choice. He has to travel to Florida and bring her back, himself.
Once he arrives in Florida, he finds her right away, but has difficulty getting her to agree to come back with him and explain what she did to his boss so he can at least keep his job. He’s also unable to capture her against her will… the two do battle, but her ruthlessness allows her to triumph over the more polite Sandy Bigelow Patterson. Eventually, however, she’s forced to flee the state due to trouble with local mobsters anyways, so she takes Sandy up on his offer to go to Denver, where unbeknownst to her, he has a sting operation set up to prove his innocence and her guilt.
Once on the road, a combination buddy movie, prisoner escort film, and road movie ensue as the pair is chased by mobsters, a bounty hunter, and the cops. And that’s on top of dealing with each other.
There’s a certain level of comedy involved in the premise, and Melissa McCarthy is definitely funny, although the quantity of her in this film might exceed the recommended dosage. Jason Bateman though is pretty under-utilized here, sadly. He’s relegated to a straight man role… and even though he’s often the foil, this is a more humorless part than most.
Regrettably, there’s a number of things that severely derail this movie. Firstly, it’s totally bogged down in the contrivances of its road movie plot. Once McCarthy agrees to go back with Bateman, they realize they both wont be able to board a plane as Sandy Bigelow Patterson. Which forces them to drive, which starts the clichéd string of obstacles that eventually leads our hero broke, injured, dirty, desperate… you’ve seen this schtick, you know what I’m saying. The obstacles are often really contrived, and not all that humorous. The mobsters magically track them, cars break down at just the wrong time, etc. It got wearisome, for me, looking past all the obvious plot problems.
The most egregious crime that the film commits, though, would border on spoiler territory, so for now I’d just say this. Ultimately this winds up being a soft-hearted comedy, with some significant forrays into dramatic territory. Which, to me, robs the film of time which should be spent on trying to be funny.
It’s certainly not a worst of the year candidate, for me. And, I’m sure there are a number of people who will get more laughs than I did out of it, especially if anyone’s a big Melissa McCarthy fan. There are definitely scattered laughs throughout, but there are also far too many plot contrivances and unbelievable situations for me to forgive.