Identity Thief


Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy see the critics approaching with torchs and pitchforks.

Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy see the critics approaching with torchs and pitchforks.

(2013) Comedy (Universal) Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, Genesis Rodriguez, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Jon Favreau, Morris Chestnut, John Cho, Robert Patrick, Eric Stonestreet, Brett Baker, Ron Falcone, Matthew Burke, Angelyn Pass, Lori Beth Edgeman. Directed by Seth Gordon

Identity theft is a big problem in the digital age. When someone is able to get your personal information, they are literally able to steal your identity, getting into your bank accounts and credit cards, able to ruin your credit and sometimes your good name (by committing crimes under your “name”). They are very difficult to catch and often can go from one identity to the next, spreading chaos and destruction in their wake

Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Bateman) is finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. He’s been working for the most despicable boss (Favreau) in history, but a group of fed-up employees have defected taking their clients with them, opening up a new well-financed company and his friend Daniel Casey (Cho) who is the president of the new company, has offered him a VP position there.

That couldn’t have come at a better time. Sandy’s wife Trish (Peet) is expecting their third child, they’ve been just able to keep their head above water financially and the increase in salary is just what they need to get back on their feet.

But then Sandy’s credit card is declined at a gas station which is puzzling; he only uses the card for gas and coffee and there should have been plenty of credit available. Then he’s pulled over and arrested for failing to appear at a court date in Winter Park, Florida.

The problem is that Sandy lives in Denver, Colorado and has never been to Florida. A mug shot from the Winter Park police is enough to clear up the matter but then the last straw is when the cops show up again at Sandy’s new job looking for evidence of drugs, once again because of a charge in Winter Park, Florida.

With Sandy’s job teetering on the brink, he knows that this identity thief must be stopped. However, the Denver cops can’t go chasing off to Florida and the Winter Park police aren’t really looking for the culprit. So Sandy heads down to pick up his tormentor himself. Turns out that the identity thief is a woman, whose name may or may not be Diana (McCarthy) – it’s hard to say because she uses so many different names but we’ll call her Diana just to make things relatively easy.

Of course Sandy finds her right away (take that, WPPD!) and at first she’s understandably reluctant to go – in fact she downright refuses. But when a couple of thugs (Rodriguez and Harris) break in with the intent to do some serious bodily harm (read as kill) to Diana and anybody unfortunate enough to be in her company at the time, she changes her attitude real fast.

However, the thugs aren’t the only ones on her tail as a grizzled skip tracer (Patrick) and the cops are on their tails. While Sandy and Diana are initially wary of each other, they’ll need to rely on each other to make it to Denver in one piece if at all.

Seth Gordon has directed some pretty good films up to now, including the wonderful documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and the terrific comedy Horrible Bosses. He’s actually been associated with a lot of decent movies up to now; unfortunately this one isn’t up to their standards.

Part of my issue with it is that it’s not very funny – it’s one of those comedies whose best moments can be found in the trailer. It’s also not the way I’d have gone with a topical subject like identity theft. It’s a road buddy movie that really could have used any sort of circumstance; unfortunately the writers tended to throw logic and reality out the window. So much of the character’s actions don’t make sense but serve as plot contrivances. There is some lazy writing going on here.

Bateman is one of my favorite comic actors working right now. He is such a likable guy that you root for him in every picture he’s in. Yeah, I know that his characters tend to be pretty similar but then that’s true of nearly every actor – few go bouncing around into disparate roles. Hollywood likes to keep its stars compartmentalized. Still, Bateman does what he does (the annoyed and put-upon nice guy) better than anyone. He’s more of a straight man.

McCarthy is taking a lead role for the first time in a feature film and she acquits herself pretty well. She’s a fearless comedienne, allowing herself to look like a cartoon character if it’s for the good of the project. She’s given a lot of physical humor to do and she does it pretty well (she’s hit by a car at one point and pops up like a bobblehead from hell) and she has a couple of dramatic scenes which she hits out of the park, to quote Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly.

I think that the slapstick is a miscalculation. Diana is portrayed as being street-smart more than clever and that’s a mistake as well. She’s so flamboyant and foolish that you can’t see her not getting caught in ten minutes flat. Her character would have benefitted from being a little bit smarter than those around her and you never get that sense.

Diana was originally written to be a male part but Bateman insisted on rewriting it for McCarthy which was a brilliant move on his part – she and he are the best things about the movie and their chemistry is undeniable. I’d love to see them work together with some better material to work with. This could easily have been a bad film but it’s just on this side of recommendable thanks to the talents and likability of its stars.

An aside to Rex Reed and those criticizing Ms. McCarthy because of her size; while there are a couple of jokes that refer to it and I’m sure she is well able to defend herself, taking shots at an actor for their looks is unprofessional and pathetic. They may be public figures but they’re people too.

REASONS TO GO: Bateman is always worth seeing. McCarthy is endearing in places.

REASONS TO STAY: A case of talented comic actors not given a whole lot to work with.

FAMILY VALUES:  There’s some pretty sexual humor, a big bad dose of bad language and obscene gestures as well as a bit of violence, mostly of the slapstick variety.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: During the road trip every car after the original rental had a crushed can of Red Bull on the dashboard.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/17/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 24% positive reviews. Metacritic: 35/100; the reviews are awfully putrid.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Midnight Run

FINAL RATING: 5/10

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