‘Identity Thief’ squanders talents of comedic stars
When it comes to comedies, there is no offense greater than wasting the talent of your brilliant stars. Identity Thief commits this sin in spades, squandering the skills of stars Jason Bateman and the comedically gifted Melissa McCarthy in a derpy, often slapstick comedy that could be described as Tommy Boy meets Due Date.
The formulaic plot of this movie revolves around Sandy Patterson (Bateman), a finance guy with a feminine name who unwittingly gives out his banking info to a crafty thief named Diana (McCarthy). Sandy goes on about his life, supporting his daughters and pregnant wife (Amanda Peet) while taking crap from his arrogant jerk of a boss (Jon Favreau). An opportunity presents itself for him to branch off with his disgruntled co-workers and be part of a new company, lead by his friend, Daniel (John Cho), but shit hits the fan when his new employer discovers that his credit score has plummeted and believes this will reflect badly on the company. The police (lead by Morris Chestnut) are bafflingly unhelpful, despite the litany of serious crimes committed by the suspected Sandy Patterson impersonator, so Sandy resorts to going on a manhunt and catching the crook himself—you know, as you do. After confronting her, the two take a road trip together and end up becoming such close friends that Diana is embraced by Sandy’s entire family—a totally normal chain of events when dealing with a lifelong criminal who destroyed your entire life. A subplot involving T.I., Genesis Rodriguez and Robert Patrick trying to track down Diana is barely even worth mentioning and typically only used for more broad, unfunny jokes.
McCarthy is a true talent and can deliver the kind of stellar comedic performances that will stand the test of time (e.g. Bridesmaids) but here, she’s relegated to “kooky oddball” and many of the jokes revolve around her being heavy or deemed otherwise unattractive. How insulting! She’s such a great performer that I hate seeing her boxed into the “wacky fat idiot” role. Another one of my favorites, Zach Galifianakis, is also typecast into similar parts and I hate watching Hollywood take these unique performers and water them down into “the fat person who falls down or gets hit by stuff”.
Bateman is equally wasted in this laughless comedy and it feels like the poor script (by Craig Mazin and Jerry Eeten) suffocates his usual snarky humor and quips. My beloved Michael Bluth is just a straight man who inexplicably accepts a deceitful criminal into his home, introduces her to his family and even lets her sleep in the same room as his two young daughters? And all this because he’s sympathetic to her troubled childhood? WTF?!
I am praying to the gods of comedy that Bateman and McCarthy choose different roles in the future because this stinker blew a great opportunity to let them shine.