Review: “Identity Thief”

In “The Avengers” a World War II man made into a superhero is found frozen in ice, a billionaire flies around in a metal suit, a scientist turns giant and green alongside a Norse god, with Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson helping fight the good fight against an alien foe teamed up with another Norse god. This plot actually taking place in our world is more believable than just about anything in the new comedy “Identity Thief”.

The movie is about what you’d expect from the director of “Four Christmases” and the writer of “The Hangover Part II”; mean spirited, far too long and with embarrassing stabs at sentimentality. Perhaps that is a bit harsh on Seth Gordon, the director of “Identity Thief”, whom has to his credit two well made docs (“The King of Kong,” “Freakanomics”), but hasn’t quite brought that same skill to features, with two utter failures to his name in a few short years.

“Identity Thief” stars Jason Bateman as a Jason Bateman-y character; tightly wound, mid-level business man named Sandy Patterson. Did you laugh? That name is supposed to be funny. Sandy is woman’s name and in this instance it belongs to a man. That’s funny, right? Well, good ol’ Sandy has everything going for from him, like a wife, pair of daughters and a sweet new job.

The only problem; his identity’s been stolen, causing his credit score to plummet at a crucial time and even leading to numerous outstanding warrants. The thief is one Diana (Melissa McCarthy), a master scammer living on the other side of the country. Through a series of silly – not in the good way – contrivances, Sandy (it’s a girls name!!) flies from his Colorado home to Florida after concocting a deal with the police that if he can bring Diane back with him, all of his problems will be solved.

Plus there’s Eric Stonestreet as a randy guy dressed as a cowboy, Robert Patrick as a bounty hunter and the pairing of T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez as two hired guns sent to get revenge on Diana for her past misdeeds. Plus other cameos. Plus almost two hours of all this. Eep.

“Identity Thief” is overstuffed and unsure of what it wants to be other than a updated take on 80s comedy classic “Midnight Run”. It makes fun of Diana’s appearance (big curly hair and brightly colored clothing), her lack of fitness and appetite, while also strongly waving its finger at the characters in the film doing just that. Jokes range from people getting hit with heavy objects to cars smashing into other cars.

In between the film’s creators shovel in faux sincerity. Sometimes it’s for the characters’ physical vulnerability, as if any of them will receive injuries longer lasting than Wile E. Coyote. Elsewhere, they try to pry poignancy in via Diana’s troubled past. However, the film’s nature is too outlandish by several miles to ever procure an honest feeling.

Bateman looks lost and bored here. McCarthy on the other hand at least has a bit of spark to her performance. She goes big, more often than not too much so, yet at least McCarthy’s trying something. The screenplay lets her down, even as she nails the picture’s emotional beats. Said beats don’t ring true, but McCarthy isn’t too blame. Hey, there’s always that gag about Sandy’s name to fall back on (It’d be like a woman named Gus! That’s whacky people!).