I laughed precisely twice during the obnoxious new “comedy” Identity Thief, once when Jason Bateman, playing a corporate accountant whose identity has been stolen by a woman in Winter Park, Fl., explains to his kids that he needs to go track her down in “the worst place on Earth,” the other was an overhead shot of the beautiful Winter Park coastline. It turns out that remaking landlocked Orlando into a beach paradise is the mildest logical lapse in a movie wholly constructed out of them.
Bateman plays Sandy Bigelow Patterson, who’s lady-like name (har har) makes him an easy target for “Diana” (Melissa McCarthy), the titular identity thief with a skill for scamming and spending. For reasons too stupid to explain, Patterson decides he needs to go find Diana in Florida and bring her back to Denver, where he just got a great new job that’s now in jeopardy because his boss (John Cho) thinks he’s a deadbeat.
Patterson tracks down Diana at her home and attempts to get her to come along “the easy way,” which ends up including throat punches, ball kicks and a head shot with a guitar. The pair then finds themselves on the run from two contact killers (Genesis Rodriguez and T.I.) who work for a jailed crime lord to whom Diana had been selling bad credit card numbers. Oh, and there’s also a psychotic bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) giving chase, because what this movie needed was more useless characters.
After a bullshit explanation as to why Sandy and Diana can’t just fly back to Denver, the pair sets off on what the filmmakers clearly intended as an uproarious road trip, with stops along the way for deviant motel sex (involving a game appearance by Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet), a campout with a ridiculous CGI snake, and a visit to St. Louis, where Diana applies her craft and gets the pair pampered at a fancy hotel before being pinched by the local cops.
But wait, there’s more. Including an escape from the law, a meeting with Sandy’s family, and the de rigor happy ending where Diana does the right thing while also never losing her propensity to crack a person in the windpipe. Everything that happens in Identity Thief is senseless, ridiculous, impossible, or all of the above. If any of it was also funny, that would be fine. But it isn’t, and the movie goes on for an eternity. This material would have been a stretch at 80 minutes of running time. That Identity Thief clocks in at 110 minutes is a crime against the audience.
I count myself a fan of both Bateman and McCarthy, but Identity Thief traps the pair in the worst-possible versions of their familiar character types (Bateman as serious straight-man deadpanning his way through ridiculous situations, McCarthy as a larger-than-life goof). Director Seth Gordon’s film lacks a consistent tone, jumping from slapstick and outrageous physical humor to serious conversations where Diana explains why she is the way she is. I didn’t buy either portion, and it all drove me a bit crazy.
Both actors have exciting projects on the horizon (Bateman’s got new episodes of Arrested Development premiere on Netflix in May; McCarthy is starring opposite Sandra Bullock in June release The Heat, the latest from Bridesmaids’ director Paul Feig), which makes it easy to skip Identity Thief. I wish I had. Save yourselves!