Identity Thief is the sort of film that attempts a great deal and succeeds at nothing. At once a slapstick comedy, a chase film and an exercise in tear jerking, director Seth Gordon fails to achieve a consistent tone throughout as madcap hijinks, mortal peril and a pathetic attempt at pathos are all thrown at the audience to see what will stick. None of it does and a stench of desperation develops early on that the film never shakes.
Jason Bateman is Sandy Patterson, a lowly drone who works at an investment firm where he’s great at managing other people’s money while earning very little of his own. He has two young daughters and a pregnant wife (a wasted Amanda Peet) to provide for and he’s barely making it. However, things are looking up as he takes a job at another firm where he’ll be paid five times his present salary. However, he gets tripped up by Diana (Melissa McCarthy), a lowly con artist who’s an expert at running up massive credit card debt in other people’s names. Too bad Patterson’s first name is distinctly feminine (he insists it’s unisex) as he winds up being her next target, resulting in our hero being arrested and in danger of losing his new job.
This is cleared up quickly and Patterson sets out to bring Diana, who’s in Florida, back to Denver so she can clear his name. This ends up being easier said than done, as screenwriter Craig Mazin puts them through the ringer, having drug dealers (Genesis Rodriguez and T.I.) and a bail bondsman (Robert Patrick) pursue them as they attempt to travel cross country in a variety of problematic vehicles.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the film being ripped off here, right down to the big reveal at the end when we’re told that Diana isn’t as bad as she seems. This is the least convincing element of the film as the character is a vile, reprehensible, irresponsible sociopath and attempting to get us to sympathize with her is a cheap, insincere ploy. Without question, McCarthy is a talented performer but her shtick is already wearing thin. There’s a certain charm to the awkward characters she plays but here there’s a mean streak to Diana that’s hard to overlook. Bateman does his level best to salvage the film with his harried everyman but this routine is getting a bit tired as well. As a result, Identity Thief winds up being a cinematic journey with two characters you wouldn’t want to cross the street with, let alone spend two hours in their company.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.