Cashing in on her Oscar nominated turn in Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy gets a headlining role alongside Jason Bateman in Identity Thief. While both performers are talented and make the best of the crap heap of a script they are handed, it’s not enough to make this anything more than a desperate misfire.
McCarthy has a lot of talent. One only need see her in The Nines to know of her dramatic capabilities. Her scope goes well beyond slapstick comedy. Yet, here she is being smashed in the face with guitars and asked to lip synch that stupid milk shake song while sitting in the passenger’s seat for yet another riff on Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
This is the sort of junk Chris Farley would be handed back in the days before his heart exploded. McCarthy is a big woman, and so she is cast in the role of sloppy clown to Bateman’s dapper straight man. Well, McCartney is also a beautiful and talented woman, and deserving of a more classy showcase. Watching this garbage, I was surprised director Seth Gordon never forced her to put on a few-sizes-too-small windbreaker and have her sing “Fat Girl in a Little Jacket.”
Bateman’s Sandy Patterson gets his identity stolen by McCarthy’s Diana and faces legal and job troubles as a result. So he leaves Colorado for Florida in search of “Bilbo,” or so he calls her, because the cops won’t help him. When the two meet up, turns out Diana has a mean throat punch and will not go quietly.
The two have a couple of good fights, with Diana getting smashed in the head with a guitar and struck with a waffle iron in one of them. Identity Thief actually does OK in the physical comic violence category. I chortled a bit at the hits these two were taking. Probably would’ve been a better movie if it were just 90 minutes of Diana and Sandy throwing stuff at each other and getting hit by cars.
Sandy eventually gets her into a car and, in the tradition of road comedies, the journey starts off bad with the two hating each other. Sandy must endure a night of Diana having sex with a stranger, various roadside disasters, and the aforementioned Diana singing to the radio.
Of course, Sandy and his family will eventually see that Diana, even though she has robbed them blind, is a great lady deep down inside. She actually spends the night at their house holding hands with the kids as they sleep. I don’t know. I think it would take more than Diana putting mashed potatoes on her face for a couple of laughs at the dinner table to be forgiven for destroying their financial lives.
Sandy’s family consists of everybody’s go-to movie wife, Amanda Peet. Peet is asked to perform the film’s most impossible task, that being playing a wife and mother who would even allow Diana in the house. My mom is a relatively meek lady, but if anybody like Diana tried to come in through the front door when I was a kid, she would’ve faced the wrath of mom and her wooden spoon. God dammit, I hated that stupid wooden spoon.
Gordon, who put together the much better Horrible Bosses, is basically working with one joke, that being Diana is a mess and Sandy will be tortured dealing with her. Gordon tries to redeem Diana by the end of the film, even giving her a makeover that results in some cringe-worthy dialogue.
Still, it’s hard to have a lot of fun watching a man’s life getting wrecked by identity theft. Hell, somebody tried to steal my identity and go shopping with my debit card just a couple of months ago. I wasn’t laughing then, and I wasn’t laughing all that much at Identity Thief.
Hollywood … please … don’t squander McCarthy’s talent. Give her the dramatic, respectable roles she deserves.