IDENTITY THIEF
Author: JoAnne Hyde
February 8, 2013

SYNOPSIS: Unlimited funds have allowed Diana (McCarthy) to live it up on the outskirts of Miami, where the queen of retail buys whatever strikes her fancy. There's only one glitch: The ID she's using to finance these sprees reads "Sandy Bigelow Patterson"....and it belongs to an accounts rep (Bateman) who lives halfway across the U.S. With only one week to hunt down the con artist before his world implodes, the real Sandy Bigelow Patterson heads south to confront the woman with an all-access pass to his life. And as he attempts to bribe, coax and wrangle her the 2,000 miles to Denver, one easy target will discover just how tough it is to get your name back.

What did I learn from Identity Thief? I’m not sure I learned how to protect my identity, but I did learn that Melissa McCarthy is a force of nature! Seth Gordon, who also gave us Horrible Bosses, directs this latest in a series of recent gross-out comedies. Is this film as good as Horrible Bosses? No, but it does give its two stars an opportunity to do what they do best. Melissa McCarthy is quite gifted at physical comedy, and no one does a straight man better than Jason Bateman. In fact, I don’t see how he can remain almost expressionless with all the shenanigans going on around him.

Jason Bateman plays Sandy Patterson, an under-appreciated and under-paid accountant working for a complete jerk of a boss, Harold Cornish (Jon Favreau). One of his colleagues, Daniel Casey (John Cho), wants to leave, form his own company, and take all his clients with him. He asks Sandy to come on board at the new company as a vice-president making 5 times his salary because Sandy is “the best at what he does”. Unfortunately, Sandy’s financial acumen doesn’t prevent him from falling for con woman Diana’s, played by Melissa McCarthy, ruse to steal his identity. When Sandy is arrested for fraud, he pleads with the police to let him find and bring in the true perpetrator whose real name he doesn’t know. He just knows she’s in Winter Park, Florida while he resides in Denver, Colorado.

Needless to say, nothing goes according to plan, and Sandy and Diana end up driving cross country in what becomes a hilarious road trip. Being with Diana becomes extremely hazardous to Sandy’s health – both physical and mental – because he’s not the only one looking for her. She’s also being chased by a demented skip-tracer (Robert Patrick) and two hired guns, Marisol (Genesis Rodriguez) and Julian (T.I.), sent by a godfather type who’s running things from his prison cell. Of course, everyone survives physical injuries that would be fatal in the real world, but this isn’t the real world. This film takes place in the universe of crude humor, broad slapstick, and seriously deranged individuals. There’s not a serious bone in its body, so if you’re looking for an intellectual experience, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Identity Thief reminded me of the 2010 Robert Downy Jr./Zach Galifianakis road trip farce, Due Date. It’s not as artfully done as that one, but the pairing of actors is just as effective. Identity Thief is not at the top of the gross-out comedy genre. The film suffers from a slow beginning, and some of the supporting cast-members play their characters a little too tongue -in -cheek. For this type of film to work, each actor has to play his/her role completely straight, no matter how stupid or stereotyped that role may be. The resolution, however, is appropriately unexpected.

If you’re a fan of the gross-out genre, you’ll enjoy the film. Even if you’re not, it’s still worth consideration just to see Melissa McCarthy’s parade of expressions and personas. She manages to give some authentic emotional layers to a completely outrageous character in completely absurd situations. - J.A. Hyde

GRADE: B

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