Jason Bateman as Sandy Patterson
Melissa McCarthy as Diana
Jon Favreau as Harold Cornish
Amanda Peet as Trish Patterson
T.I. as Julian
Genesis Rodriguez as Marisol
Morris Chestnut as Detective Reilly
John Cho as Daniel Casey
Robert Patrick as Skiptracer
Eric Stonestreet as Big Chuck
Ryan Gaul as Bartender
Directed by Seth Gordon
While Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy play roles very similar to ones they’ve done before, combined they deliver fun though predictable comedy with “Identity Thief.”
Sandy Patterson is a hard working family man. He is honest, reliable, and generally underappreciated at his office. But he has a loving wife and two daughters with a third on the way. Unfortunately, his life starts falling apart when his identity is stolen by a woman in Florida.
A career criminal, Diana has completely stolen Sandy’s identity. She has maxed out all of his credit cards, been arrested under Sandy’s name, and been involved in credit card fraud with a drug organization. She’s the complete opposite of Sandy in every respect.
When Sandy is about to lose his job due to Diana’s criminal activities, he hatches a plan with his bosses and the local police. Sandy will bring Diana from Florida to Denver and get her to confess the identity theft. Then Sandy will get his job back, his name cleared, and Diana will go to jail. It sounds like a simple plan, but when Diana is pursued by hitmen and bounty hunters, what starts as an unusual road trip turns into an epic disaster for Sandy.
“Identity Thief” is rated R for sexual content and language.
It’s easy to see why “Identity Thief” got a green light. With rampant identity theft and credit card fraud in the United States, it’s something that everyone has to deal with at one point or another. It can cause a chain of events that will create havoc in an everyday Joe Schmo’s life and that’s one of the first ingredients of any good comedy.
Once you have a solid premise, you need good actors to carry it out. First of all, you need a straight man and nobody fits that role better than Jason Bateman. As Sandy Patterson, Bateman plays pretty much the exact same character he always has. He’s an everyday guy who is thrown into an extraordinary situation with wacky characters. He’s been the straight man in “Arrested Development,” “Horrible Bosses,” “The Change-Up,” etc. It’s nothing new for Bateman, but he does it well. In this film, the wacky character he’s paired with is Melissa McCarthy as Diana. She, too, is typecast as the crude, annoying, awkward, heavyset woman who under her abrasive exterior has a heart of gold. It’s the same character she played in “Bridesmaids” and, to a lesser extent, in “This Is 40.” But Bateman and McCarthy are like chocolate and peanut butter. Alone they’re likeable but familiar. Together you have something new. And fortunately the pairing of these typecast actors makes for a solid yet predictable comedy.
While Bateman and McCarthy carry the film well together, they’re backed up by a good supporting cast. Eric Stonestreet briefly steals the movie as Big Chuck, a character Diana and Sandy meet on the road. He initially seems quite unassuming, but then quickly lowers himself down to Diana’s level of crude and funny humor. He makes a brief reappearance later in the film, but you soon wish to see him again on the screen with McCarthy. Another cool treat is that you get to see cameos by some of Bateman and McCarthy’s former co-stars from other productions. Ellie Kemper from “Bridesmaids” has a brief cameo as a diner waitress. And if you saw Bateman in the TV series “Valerie” from the ’80s then you’ll recognize the bus station attendant as Steve Witting, who played Burt way back when. There are also small roles played by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), Jonathan Banks (Mike from “Breaking Bad”), Robert Patrick (“Terminator 2: Judgment Day”), John Cho (“Star Trek”) and Amanda Peet (“2012”).
While the witty dialogue between Bateman and McCarthy provides a lot of the laughs, the physical comedy is pretty funny, too. There’s a great fight between Diana and Sandy in her house that generates a number of cringe-worthy moments. There is also a hilarious campfire scene involving snakes that had the audience in stitches. It’s nice to see that the sophisticated classics like people getting hit in the face can still make audiences laugh.
What Didn’t Work:
While “Identity Thief” is somewhat entertaining, it’s utterly predictable. It follows the formula of most road trip comedies and there are few surprises. The commercials and trailers also show most of what the film has to offer. The story is also pretty unrealistic. The whole idea of Sandy having to drag Diana across the country to get police help wouldn’t happen in the real world. The same is true with most of the events that happen along the way. That’s forgivable, though, because you wouldn’t have a movie without those outlandish events, but it does require the audience to suspend disbelief.
And while Melissa McCarthy is funny, she is best in small doses with a large cast. That allows her to come in, steal a scene, then hand the movie back over to her fellow cast. With her in a leading role, you’re subjected to her shock humor almost consistently. It starts to lose its shock by the end of the film.
The Bottom Line:
If you’re a fan of Jason Bateman or Melissa McCarthy, then I think you’ll enjoy “Identity Thief.” While it’s not a great comedy, it’s a serviceable one worth checking out.