by M. Faust
Sitting down to watch a movie like Identity Thief is like driving to Toronto: There’s only one way to get where you’re going, it will take about 100 minutes, and there won’t be any surprises on the way. The formula—take two characters who are guaranteed to grate on each other’s nerves, force them together on a cross-country trip, and watch the sparks fly—was last seen in Due Date, at least to the best of my recollection. This time our odd couple is Jason Bateman as an upright business accountant and Melissa McCarthy as the woman who steals his identity and ruins his credit. With his job and livelihood on the line, he can only get police involved if he gets her from Florida to his home base in Denver.
A comedy like this stands or falls on the interplay between the characters. Teaming deadpan Bateman with volatile McCarthy is sensible casting, but casting isn’t everything. The script piles on complications in an effort to make all this plausible, but the result is a movie that is busy without being terribly funny. Her character (whose name we never learn until the final scene) is so dislikeable that the pendulum has to swing just as far in the opposite direction for her to redeem herself in a pair of tear-jerking dramatic scenes. McCarthy deserves credit for building a career despite having the kind of body that Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with, but too much of the humor here is built on the presumption that fat women are grotesque (and never more so than when sexually enthusiastic). As for Bateman, he’s wasted once again in a dishwater-dull role that barely taps his skills. Give it Brownie points, though, for making fun of Florida (“the worst place in America”) and Ayn Rand.
Watch the trailer for Identity Thief
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