For a movie that’s billed as a comedy, Identity Thief certainly leaves you with an empty feeling. Then again, the movie is about a con artist who steals from a dude who doesn’t even know he’s being jacked.
That’s what happens to Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman), a Denver company/family man who foolishly gives his personal info away on the phone to “Diana” (Melissa McCarthy), a Florida gal who spends her days making up phony IDs and credit cards and cleaning out the bank accounts of poor schmucks like him.
Once his credit cards begin getting declined and the cops start showing up to take him downtown, he eventually heads to Florida to track down this woman and bring her to Denver so she can clear up everything. The movie turns into an oh-so-obvious, buddy comedy road trip mashup, where the two protagonists end up learning more about each other and all that bullshit.
Identity Thief is directed by Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses, Four Christmases), whom I starting to think is trying to outdo Todd Phillips for the title of World’s Lousiest Comedy Director. As with most of Phillips’ work, Identity Thief is tonally deranged. (Most of the blame should be attributed to screenwriter Craig Mazin, who co-wrote Phillips’ The Hangover Part II, as well as the third installment coming out this May.)
The film's first half is just a barrage of ugly, soulless humor, as Bateman’s character is surrounded by assholes who can’t seem to comprehend that someone could have stolen his identity (that is, when they’re not also mocking his unisex name). Those dicks soon become no match for McCarthy’s obnoxious sociopath, who greets our boy with everything from punches to the throat to insults about his man parts once he gets to the Sunshine State.
Perhaps the creators of this film realized midway through the production that we’re supposed to feel sympathy for McCarthy’s character as well, which would explain the movie’s weirdly sentimental second half. McCarthy immerses herself here, even shedding actual tears in a couple of scenes.
As darling and promising the pairing of Bateman and McCarthy is, their extemporaneous talents are sadly wasted in this film. Identity Thief is supposed be a fun time, but robs you of it the whole 111 minutes you’re sitting there watching it.