Identity Thief

Rating:

Felonious Funnies

Main Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Bateman

Director: Seth Gordon

I love both Melissa McCarthy (for her hilarious turn in Bridesmaids) and Jason Bateman (for playing the same character perfectly in every movie).  Together I figured them to be the ideal combination of comedian and straight man – fantastic casting for the 2013 comedy Identity Thief.

Identity Thief has a butt simple premise – Diana (McCarthy) steals the identity of Sandy Patterson (Bateman), causing him financial, workplace and marital stress through her prodigious use of credit cards acquired using his good name.  He is forced to track her down and deliver her to his boss to prove he didn’t commit her felonious acts lest he be fired.  Hilarity ensues.

This is not a smart movie.  It’s filled to the brim with silliness, vulgarity, felonies, predictability and funny, funny banter between Melissa McCarthy by Mingle Media TV McCarthy and Bateman. It’s at its best when making ample use of a few running gags and letting the two leads riff off each other in one ridiculous situation after another.  The peripheral characters (a few bad guys chasing Diana) are fine, but nothing special, they exist merely to provide fodder for the main players.

Neither Bateman or McCarthy stretch here – but I don’t want them to stretch.  I signed on to see two actors do exactly what it is that they are best at doing and I got my money’s worth.  McCarthy is over the top, crass and larger than life.  Her Diana is also insecure and rootless, making her less despicable than her actions warrant.  Bateman’s Sandy is an absolute straight arrow, devoted family man barely making ends meet, never doing anything against the rules.  Forcing him to chase a fugitive gives the movie its steam, pushes him out of his comfort zone and sets up every single piece of humor contained in the movie.

Jason Bateman

Director Seth Gordon makes the most of the natural talents of his leads, giving them plenty of room to improvise and play.  Some of it works, some doesn’t, but there’s always a sense of freedom – the feeling that the actors are being allowed to let their characters develop and play out situations, finding the direction that works to the greatest comic benefit.  He worked similarly with Bateman in Horrible Bosses, with similar effect.

Also along for the ride are some cameo performers having fun with their weird little parts. Eric Stonestreet (Cameron from Modern Family) gets to be a kinky cowboy, Robert Patrick a ruthless bounty hunter, Morris Chestnut a realistic and entirely unhelpful police officer and the lovely Amanda Peet is Sandy’s long suffering wife.  Each of these actors looks to be enjoying their roles, getting to push them a little further and a little wilder than they would under other circumstances.  I suspect that McCarthy has that effect on movies…

Overall, Identity Thief is solid, with good performances from the leads, but it isn’t Earth shatteringly funny – if you don’t like these actors, don’t bother.  If you do, put your disbelief on the shelf and just sit back and enjoy the foolishness. 3 ½ stars out of 5.

photos by lukeford.net and Mingle Media TV

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