McCarthy packs a comic punch in ‘Identity Thief’
Updated: February 8, 2013 3:34PM
If you can get past the fact that the plot is completely preposterous and one of the characters is a violent, amoral lunatic and all you’re expecting is a few decent laughs, “Identity Thief” isn’t bad, really.
It’s better than a punch to the throat, in any case.
That’s easy to see because whenever there’s a lull in the hilarity — which is fairly often — Melissa McCarthy rams her fist into somebody’s windpipe. A peculiar choice, given her height. It would seem she’d be a natural for the traditional swift kick to the gonads, but we’re clearly exploring fresh comic territory here.
As desperately lonely, emotionally needy and steadfastly sociopathic con-artist Diana, McCarthy proves she’s more than capable of handling a starring role after her scene-stealing turns in “Bridesmaids” and “This is 40” — especially opposite a reliable pro like Jason Bateman. It’s just a shame that the script doesn’t give either of them much to work with.
Bateman plays loving husband and father, law-abiding citizen and mid-level financial-industry exec Sandy Patterson, who spends much of the movie fending off ridicule about having a girl’s name. Which also makes him a prime target for Diana, who calls him up and tricks him into giving him all his credit card numbers.
Next thing you know, Diana’s partying hard in Florida on his credit, he’s on the hook for thousands and thousands of dollars and also under arrest for skipping out on a felony charge Diana racked up in his name. Worst of all, he’s about to lose his new job as vice-president of a new firm being founded by fellow execs from his old company. New boss Jon Cho (“Harold and Kumar”) gives him one week to prove he’s not a throat-punching bad credit risk.
Naturally, that means mild-mannered Sandy has to fly down to Florida, personally put Diana in handcuffs and bring her back home to clear his name, right? And naturally, things will get complicated when it turns out that murderous drug dealers and a bad-guy bounty hunter are also on Diana’s trail.
Since they can’t present the same IDs to get on a plane together, the whole thing is going to turn into a whacky, action-comedy road trip. And while Sandy and Diana start the trip despising each other, they’re going to wind up being best-buds who have learned important (and emotionally moving) life lessons from each other — right? Naturally.
All of which doesn’t play quite as badly as it might sound, primarily because comic cyclone McCarthy and ingenious straight man Bateman have great chemistry together. Director Seth Gordon (“Horrible Bosses,” “Four Christmases”) has a flair for action-comedy slapstick — though his best film by far is still the 2007 documentary “The King of Kong.”
In other words, there’s a reasonable chance you’re going to find “Identity Thief” intermittently funny, if you’re not easily offended or a stickler for a credible storyline.
Or if you find a fist to the trachea every bit as funny as a knee to the groin.