Pairing likable Jason Bateman as a victim and outrageous Melissa McCarthy as the title character in Identity Thief would seem to be a perfect comedy setup. The results, however, are less than perfect…and that’s putting it mildly.
McCarthy plays a chronic liar who has stolen Bateman’s identity, not only ruining his credit but costing him his job. A worker bee at a financial business in Denver, he’s forced to travel to Florida, confront her in person and drag her back home in order to clear his good name. Circumstances force them to drive all the way, and that becomes an eventful road trip.
Identity Thief is rude and crude, and McCarthy is a formidably fearless comedienne who can handle any kind of situation—even with material that isn’t worthy of her. But screenwriter Craig Mazin and director Seth Gordon want to have it all, so suddenly they make her character sympathetic and turn the film into a warm and fuzzy buddy-road picture. McCarthy and Bateman are skillful enough to pull this off, to some degree, but it comes after so much coarse, obnoxious comedy that I got annoyed at the film’s bait-and-switch tactics.
I came away from Identity Thief with more admiration than ever for Melissa McCarthy, but I hope somebody will devise a better vehicle for her talents. Jason Bateman is a reliable straight-man, as he’s proven many times before, but he too deserves a better movie than this.