- Rated R
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
dentity Thief” is fake funny, which is to say that it’s really not funny, but some people will find it funny because the people in the movie do such wacky things. And lately, wacky somehow automatically translates into funny. If you sit and think about any of those wacky things for a second, though, you quickly realize that the movie is just noise masquerading as comedy, and that nothing here makes any sense. Indeed, if you think about it long enough, you’ll realize that the movie is asking you to root for a disturbed sociopath who ruins people’s lives for sport. Are we having fun yet?
Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) is an unassuming accounts payable officer for a Denver firm who unwittingly allows himself to become the victim of identity theft at the hands of Winter Park, FL resident Diana (Melissa McCarthy), who charges $12,000 on Sandy’s credit card. Diana is soon arrested for a disorderly charge and, since she was booked under Sandy’s name, he’s now wanted by the police after Diana skips a bail hearing. The police are largely unwilling to help Sandy clear his name, or his debt, but one officer tells him that if he can track down the person responsible and bring her to Denver, all charges against the real Sandy will be cleared. Sandy books the next flight to Miami and finds Diana rather quickly, but she is not at all the pushover he thought she’d be. Also, there are two Latino gangsters who are hunting Diana after she sold them bad credit cards, and not long after that, a grizzled bail bondsman (Robert Patrick) enters the fray.
Anyone who has had money stolen from their debit or credit accounts knows that in most instances, their financial institution will refund the money right away. No one has ever had to hunt down the person responsible for stealing their money…ever. Right away, this movie has inhaled too much bad screenwriting logic dust, similar to the events in “Due Date” that cause Robert Downey Jr. to land on the no-fly list in the first five minutes. That would never happen in the real world, but you don’t have a movie without it, so sprinkle some logic dust, and ta da! Artificial conflict, where none would exist otherwise. It renders a group of very capable actors unwatchable, the sole exception of which is Patrick, who relishes his part as a dirtbag and milks it for all it’s worth.
Melissa McCarthy had better watch her step, or this honeymoon phase she’s enjoying following her breakout performance in (the overrated) “Bridesmaids” is about to come to a screeching halt. She clearly improvised half of her dialogue, and the joke wore thin pretty quickly. By the time she’s describing Sandy and his withered man bits to a Georgia waitress, she’s gone from playing a thief to playing an annoying thief. Whatever you think of her character, she’s not worth an ounce of the feelings we’re supposed to have for her, which makes Sandy’s inevitable change of heart in Act III even more unbearable.
“Identity Thief” is a clear descendant of “Midnight Run,” and to be fair, it makes sense that someone would think of adding a new spin to the idea of a law-abiding citizen and a criminal forming an unsteady alliance. Where “Identity Thief” goes so horribly wrong is in the execution of that idea. Diana doesn’t just steal – she steals with such depravity that it jumps straight from funny to sad, and her tragic back story isn’t remotely enough to justify her actions. It’s the most lopsided anti-buddy comedy ever made, tone-deaf and dull. Get ready to root for, well, no one.