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Identity Thief - Movie Review

2 stars

Hinting at something much bigger than its topical brand of shock humor is able to deliver, the title for Identity Thief seems poignant for today’s information-driven society where having one’s personal identity stolen is but a single careless mouse click away. But without a meaningful subtext running beneath the onslaught of crass humor and R-rated shenanigans, the film wouldn’t amount to much more than, well... a simple-minded crass comedy with an endless onslaught of R-rated shenanigans.

So that’s where aspirational thoughts of becoming something more significant come in; namely, hoping to turn the title on its head and play off the idea of what it means to know and accept who you really are, even when it’s painful to do so. A noble enough effort, and one that’s certainly needed to counter the excess of over-the-top physical antics with a bit of heart and soul. But problems arise when screenwriter Craig Mazin tries to meld those big-hearted themes with its relentless ribaldry.

Melissa McCarthy, in her first starring role since breaking out with her Oscar-nominated performance in 2010’s Bridesmaids, is undoubtedly the star of the show. And credit director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) for knowing when to just sit on his hands and let his performers perform. Opposite McCarthy is Jason Bateman in another of the straight-man roles he does so well as hard-working mid-level financial analyst Sandy Patterson whose life is disrupted by a Florida con artist (McCarthy) who steals his identity and trashes his credit rating virtually overnight.

With an ever-growing impatient wife (Amanda Peet), two children, another on the way, and his job dangling by a thread, Patterson sets out on a road trip across the country - slightly reminiscent of Trains Plains, and Automobiles, only not as good - to confront the woman enjoying an all-access pass to his life. But as he attempts to bribe, cajole, and rustle her the 2,000 miles back to Colorado armed with only a bottle of sleeping pills with which to drug her (never mind the unbelievability here, just go with it), and a little bit of “sock money” in case of an emergency, Patterson will soon discover just how tough it is to get your identity back.

Showing a similarly farcical brand of physical comedy that fed the careers of John Belushi and Chris Farley back in the day, McCarthy is unquestionably an up-and-coming comic force. But it’s likely just a matter of time before she grows weary of the inevitable pigeon-holing as the fat girl we love to watch fall down. And there’s a bit too much of that in Identity Thief - or, at least, it’s not countered with enough meaty substance. At a few ticks shy of a full two hours (usually too much for a skit comedy), each set piece goes on a bit too long, including one with Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet as an oversexed cowboy named Big Chuck who falls for Diana at a small town bar along the way.

McCarthy gets ample opportunity to display her dramatic chops when the proceedings turn serious during a predictably emotional detour in the film’s latter half. But unfortunately, those moments are neither interesting nor weighty enough to amount to anything more than an unwanted pitstop, grinding the gears until we get to see the fat girl fall down again. Comedy without nuance and dimension is just slapstick. Bateman and McCarthy make for a great slapstick team, but at nearly two hours, the film runs out of gas way before it finally reaches its destination.[/tab]

[tab title="Film Details"]

Identity Thief - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for sexual content and language.
112 mins.
: Seth Gordon
: Craig Mazin
Cast: Jason Bateman; Melissa McCarthy; Amanda Peet; Eric Stonestreet
: Comedy
Is this the face of a thief?
Memorable Movie Quote: "What are you, Kenyan?"
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date: February 8, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.

Synopsis: Horrible Bosses’ Jason Bateman and Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy lead the cast of Identity Thief, an all-star comedy in which a regular guy is forced to extreme measures to clear his name. With everything to lose after his identity is stolen, he’ll find out how crazed you can get trying to settle a bad credit score.

Unlimited funds have allowed Diana (McCarthy) to live it up on the outskirts of Miami, where the queen of retail buys whatever strikes her fancy. There’s only one glitch: The ID she’s using to finance these sprees reads “Sandy Bigelow Patterson”… and it belongs to an accounts rep (Bateman) who lives halfway across the U.S.

With only one week to hunt down the con artist before his world implodes, the real Sandy Bigelow Patterson heads south to confront the woman with an all-access pass to his life. And as he attempts to bribe, coax and wrangle her the 2,000 miles to Denver, one easy target will discover just how tough it is to get your name back.[/tab]

[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

No details available.[/tab]

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