The screwball comedy was an art a little under a century ago. Fantastic dialogue, fast pace and funny mishaps made men like Howard Hawks and Abbott and Costello famous. There have been few that have replicated the era's success, but they keep trying. Identity Thief
is one of those failed attempts to capture comedy magic.
Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Jason Bateman) is one of the good guys. He is excellent at his job, loves his wife and kids, and always stays on the right side of the law. However his niceness makes him vulnerable, allowing him to be easily duped by Diana (Melissa McCarthy) – an identity thief. Suddenly Sandy's credit cards are being destroyed and he's being arrested for failing to appear in court almost 2000 miles away. The mug shot proves he's not the right person, but that doesn't seem to be enough for his boss (John Cho) or the police. Therefore, Sandy decides to catch the thief himself and convince her to confess to her crimes. But he's not the only one Diana has wronged, resulting in a bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) and assassins (T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez) on their trail.
When trying to spread characters too thin, the result is a weak story. There’s simply too much happening. The script is trying so hard to be entertaining, it fails to actually be funny. From harping on the femininity of Sandy’s name to making fun of Diana’s weight, the comedy cops out by taking the cheap shot in most cases. This method gets old quickly.
For some, the film may lose its credibility in the opening minutes when Sandy naively hands over all the information necessary to duplicate his identity. For others, it may be when the mild-mannered accountant decides to take justice into his own hands. If you can make it past these red flags, then there’s a chance you may enjoy the movie.
The performances are adequate. McCarthy is characteristically humorous, though it now appears she risks being type-casted going forward. Her talent, however, is wasted on this picture. Bateman is typically the straight man in a comedy duo or ensemble, which doesn’t change here. Cho, on the other hand, is possibly the most reserved he’s appeared on screen.
At nearly two hours, this movie rambles through one misadventure after another until the credits bring a sigh of relief.
Director: Seth Gordon
Starring: Jason Bateman
, Melissa McCarthy
and John Cho