REVIEW: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy star in ‘Identity Thief’

Comedy - 2015Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy are two of the funniest actors working in Hollywood. From Bateman’s role in the Arrested Development series to McCarthy’s memorable performance in Bridesmaids, the two have selected stellar projects to highlight their comedic chops. Identity Thief, on paper, seems like a natural fit for both actors; however, the script is somewhat formulaic and can’t sustain the laughter. Count this one as an enjoyable, albeit fleeting, distraction.

McCarthy plays Diana, a unique personality. Her positive qualities have a tough time shining through her negative qualities, which include stealing unsuspecting victims’ identities. Enter Sandy Patterson (Bateman), her latest victim.

After a quick exposition, the audience finds out that it’s easier for Sandy to travel to Diana’s whereabouts to take back his identity (almost like a bounty hunter). The premise is somewhat preposterous, but it gets the two main characters in the same scene together. So it works.

These two characters are complete opposites; Sandy is a soft-spoken, reasonable character, while “Sandy” is loud, unpredictable and, of course, humorous. Both are searching for fulfillment — one legally, the other illegally.

Identity Thief, written by Craig Mazin and directed by Seth Gordon, turns into a road trip movie when both Sandys travel across the United States to sort things out. They meet a motley variety of supporting characters, played by an assortment of accomplished actors. Robert Patrick and Eric Stonestreet receive the funniest roles. Amanda Peet also plays the real Sandy’s wife and becomes a more important character in the final scenes.

Comedies like Identity Thief are typically judged on their laugh-per-minute quotient. On that scale, the movie succeeds to a certain point. However, after the zaniness of Diana is understood, she becomes less funny and a tad annoying. Bateman’s Sandy character is a good partner, but this kind of role has been played several times by the actor. He’s meant to be the voice of reason in an unreasonable society, but it’s difficult not to think of Michael Bluth from Arrested Development or Nick Hendricks from Horrible Bosses.

Kudos to the creative team for crafting a story based on a real concern of so many people nowadays. Identity theft can be a horror show, and there are some elements of the movie that will ring true for audience members. However, by the end of its rather long running time, Identity Thief doesn’t have much to offer except a few laughs. Bateman and McCarthy keep the proceedings interesting, and the film is never difficult to withstand. But it would have been appreciated to have more reasons to make this a must-see comedy, especially given the cast’s potential.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Identity Thief
  • 2013
  • Directed by Seth Gordon
  • Written by Craig Mazin; based on a story by Jeff Eeten and Mazin
  • Starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Bateman, Amanda Peet, John Cho, Eric Stonestreet, Robert Patrick, Jon Favreau and T.I.
  • Running time: 110 minutes
  • Rated R for sexual content and language
  • Rating: ★★☆☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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