out of Five
Running time: 111
Identity Thief is low on laughs and has a number of plot problems but the comic performances from Bateman and McCarthy ensure that it stays watchable.
What's it all about?
Directed by Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses), Identity Thief stars Jason Bateman as Denver accountant Sandy Patterson, whose unisex name makes him a prime target for Florida-based con-artist/identity thief Diana (Melissa McCarthy). When the police prove ineffectual and Sandy's newly destroyed credit rating threatens his new job, he decides to travel to Florida in the hopes of apprehending Diana himself. However, Diana proves a somewhat slippery customer and things quickly go from bad to worse when it transpires that she's being pursued by both a bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) and two assassins (Tip ‘TI’ Harris and Genesis Rodriguez).
Jason Bateman excels at both cutting sarcasm and what might be termed righteous exasperation (he'd be perfect for a remake of Clockwise) and he's on fine form here, delivering a likeable performance and sparking strong chemistry with McCarthy, Amanda Peet (as Sandy's pregnant wife) and Mary-Charles Jones and Maggie Elizabeth Jones (as his adorable young daughters). McCarthy is equally good, managing to keep Diana on the right side of sympathetic despite her early behaviour (this is cemented in the third act with a tear-jerking backstory) and pulling off some amusing physical comedy (the gag involving her trying to outrun Bateman is the funniest moment in the film).
The main problem is that it feels like the filmmakers didn't have enough confidence in their screwball premise as it stood, so they threw in both the bounty hunter and the assassins; as a result, Harris and Rodriguez's characters have almost no impact on the story whatsoever and their parts could easily have been cut, which would have given the film a much more comedy-friendly running time. Similarly, Amanda Peet (a fine comic actress in her own right) is criminally underused as Sandy's wife, while John Cho delivers a curiously comedy-free performance as Sandy's colleague-turned-boss.
On top of that, the film constantly struggles to find the right tone, unsure of whether it wants to be a raucous knockabout comedy (there's some cartoon-ish violence, as well as a supposedly gross-out sex scene) or something much more sentimental (the third act layers it on thick and fast – think Planes, Trains and Automobiles with McCarthy as John Candy). That same issue with the tone of the film is also present in the film's treatment of McCarthy's character; the cartoon violence scene is genuinely shocking in that regard and backfires horribly.
Identity Thief remains watchable thanks to strong comic performances from Bateman and McCarthy but the plot is extremely sloppy and the film never quite finds the right tone.
Identity Thief (M)