Saturday At The Movies: Identity Thief

Identity Thief – the new comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman.  The previews put this one over the top, showing off McCarthy and her delightful banter. But once again, clever trailer editing has shown us all of the best parts of this far-fetched comedy and left the rest of the movie as filler.

Check out the trailer and then read my review after the jump!

The Plot

Jason Bateman plays uncool financial manager Sandy, who inexplicably gives his social security number to a woman on the phone. From there we see identity thief Diana buy her way to happiness and a public intoxication charge. The real (male) Sandy is in Denver, arrested for skipping out on his identity thief’s court date. In an effort to keep his new job in the financial industry after Diana has destroyed him financially and reclaim his good name, he goes after Diana himself, determined to bring her to the justice.  The result is a sometimes-hilarious road trip movie that involves a few gang members bent on revenge, and almost unrecognizable T1000 (Robert Patrick) as a bad-ass bounty hunter. As you can imagine, our duo avoids both of these obstacles and eventually make it back to Denver in time for Diana to do the right thing and Sandy to almost do the right thing.

The Comedy Hump

The movie kept me on the edge of my seat, just waiting to laugh -waiting for these characters to make some sort of connection that would provide the fuel to get me over the comic hump.  Sadly, most of the time it didn’t come. Instead the movie was oddly dramatic in so many places, the comedy turned uncomfortable. Melissa McCarthy’s character is chortled at at two separate malls. She is given an ugly duckling transformation, which then leads to her heartbreaking back-story. She’s crying alone in the car more times that I could count. Her house is some horrible version of Hoarders, meant to tell us she’s replacing feelings with stealing. The realtor Diana tries to swindle breaks down in tears over his dead wife. Everyone looks uncomfortable when they realize Diana has carried and unconscious Sandy half a mile out of the woods. Even at the end of the film, as McCarthy tries to comically describe to Sandy’s anxious wife that “nothing” happened on the road trip to Denver, the monologue dribbled out into more a desperate plea that “something” had the possibility of occurring on that road trip. I wasn’t sure if we’re supposed to laugh at how desperate Diana is to be seen as a human being.

I can overlook the St. Louis dinner scene where Bateman is forced to list off the relevant lessons of the movie. I can even overlook the sometimes comic effect of beaning McCarthy with various objects and subjecting her to a type of physical comedy that comes down to the level of “I’m fat – isn’t this funny?”. However, I can’t condone the lack of time they gave for McCarthy’s true gift of comedic improv riffing. The trailer sums up all of those jewels.  She is magic when she’s left to play against Bateman’s straight man but they don’t use is hardly enough. There’s car scene after car scene where she just prattles on about nothing until Bateman’s Sandy is forced to smack her head against the car door. I can’t say I didn’t want to do the same thing.

Adding to the humiliation was the fact that John Cho, of Harold and Kumar fame, wasn’t even used as a comic vehicle in this movie. This, despite the gaping opening left to him when the police come to search his new office for drugs. Even Ellie Kemper from The Office gets a cameo, which at least comes in the best scene of the movie. You realize after slushing through the first quarter of the movie to get to the road trip part, you’re not going to get a satisfying comedy here.

Final Thought

Missed opportunities, bad direction of the undeniable talent, muddled storyline and comic sensibility.  Save your money and watch the trailer on repeat for 2 hours.

2 abused Melissa McCarthys out of 10

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