Identity Thief's lack-luster plotline leaves few laughing
In my book, Melissa McCarthy can do no wrong. From her breakout gig in Bridesmaids to her most recent role as a big-haired Florida swindler in Identity Thief, McCarthy has proven that brazen bodily humor can actually work. Co-starring with the always-gloomy Jason Bateman — who plays a mild-mannered businessman named “Sandy Bigelow Patterson” – McCarthy is left carrying Identity Thief solo through much of its nearly two-hour runtime.
Initially, Diana (McCarthy) — whose name is later discovered to be Dawn — steals Sandy’s identity and ends up stripping him of all his finances. Upon realizing he has been utterly scammed, Sandy embarks on a hectic journey to confront the scheming Floridian. Due to a series of unfortunate and rather unrealistic events, Sandy is forced to journey cross-country with the seemingly psychotic Diana in an attempt to regain his identity. While on the road, the chemistry between McCarthy and Bateman is largely nonexistent, oscillating between hostile interaction and uncomfortable sexual tension.
Thankfully, McCarthy’s abrupt yet undeniably humorous outbursts keep the audience on their toes. At one point, McCarthy’s character intermittently bursts into a fit throat-punching and apparent ninja-like reflexes that are not only surprising but exceedingly hilarious. If you didn’t laugh, you were doing theatre-going wrong. But even McCarthy’s antics can’t save the second half of the movie, which is mediocre at best.
A ludicrous side-plot involving a ruthless bounty hunter and a band of arrogant drug dealers, one of which is played by rapper T.I., is neither rational nor even mildly funny. More of a filler than anything else, the side-plot adds absolutely no comedic value or overall sentimental takeaway. In fact, I believe it’s chiefly responsible for the film’s poor reception by critics.
Aside from McCarthy’s laudable performance, Bateman offers nothing refreshing to the plot. Mirroring his previous box-office roles (The Switch and Horrible Bosses), he seems to find himself in an inescapable abyss of bad luck. His character, Sandy, who initially comes across as the film’s helpless protagonist, is later completely overshadowed by Diana, who ultimately emerges as the movie’s true heroine.
Throughout their unconventional road trip, a few predictable yet emotional scenes grace the screen with mixed results. One sequence showcases Diana breaking down and admitting she was abandoned as a child and subsequently raised in numerous foster homes — she isn’t even aware of her real name. It is a bit unclear, however, what the true motivation behind such sentimental stabs is. Perhaps it’s a failed attempt at the cliché: never judge a book by its cover.
In the end, the true culprit behind the film’s mediocrity is its uninspiring script. Neither Bateman’s nor McCarthy’s lines are able to give them the flexibility needed to form a relationship that leaves viewers satisfied. Lackluster plot interludes coupled with tasteless action scenes ultimately leave audience members needing more.