After achieving a $35 million opening weekend, the Seth Gordon-directed "Identity Thief" has staked its claim on the pockets and purses of the public. The new release falls into the sub-genres of buddy films and road comedies such as "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," "Dumb and Dumber," and "Tommy Boy".
Despite its glimmering company of classics, "Identity Thief" falls terribly short of masking both its recycled jokes and its inferiority to its predecessors.
The film begins by introducing Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman), a mild-mannered family man with three children and a track record that is without blemish. However, once he falls victim to professional con-woman Diana (Melissa McCarthy), Patterson’s credit score, occupation, family finances, and history free of legal troubles are all placed in jeopardy. Defying all reasonable logic, Patterson, his boss, and local authorities resolve that it is in Patterson’s best interest to place himself in harms way by flying 2,000 miles from Denver to Orlando in order to perform a citizen’s arrest on the perpetrator. Fortunately for Patterson, Diana turns out to be a misunderstood portly women with comedic quirks rather than a homicidal maniac with a violent history.
What ensues is an agonizingly drawn out display of raunchy comedy as Patterson and Diana are forced to make the trek across the country with bounty hunters and revenge seekers in hot pursuit. This, of course, provides ample opportunity for Patterson and Diana to set aside their differences and embrace an unlikely friendship.
Doomed from the beginning, much of the film’s content is the work of screenwriter Craig Mazin, the man responsible for unfortunate scripts such as "Scary Movie 3", "Scary Movie 4", and "Super Hero Movie". This is made painfully clear by the abundance of crude jokes that may prove big hits with any adolescents who sneak into the R-rated feature by purchasing tickets to Warm Bodies. More mature viewers will grow bored with Mazin’s attempted punch lines at the constant expense of Sandy’s unisex name and Diana’s plump physique. These jokes are absolutely exhausted, and are separated only by bouts of over the top car chases and crass dialogue.
In order to bring depth to the shallow subject matter, Mazin and Gordon make vain attempts to draw on the emotions of the audience. The film stretches, squeezes, and pushes ever so desperately at the doorway to the dramatic comedy genre, but falls in embarrassing fashion. Though those responsible for the picture have high hopes of fetching feelings of sympathy toward Diana’s character, there is no point in which the audience truly does not wish her to end up in prison.
Given the elements that work against "Identity Thief", the film’s saving grace is the acting of Bateman and McCarthy. Though their characters are hollow and their dialogue is thin, the chemistry and delivery is top notch. Bateman and McCarthy do what they can with their wretched scripts, and they almost save the picture. Almost.
"Identity Thief" is not an icon of the comedy genre, nor does it raise bars by any definition. It is merely a cluster of cheap laughs trapped in a 115-minute mess. It may prove perfect for a sick day on the couch when it joins the new releases of the freebies on Netflix, but it is hardly worth the theater's hefty ticket price.