Movie Review: Identity Thief (2013)

Universal Pictures
Runtime: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Rated: R (for language and sexual content)
Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, John Cho
Director: Seth Gordon
Writers: Craig Mazin, Jerry Eaten
Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, John Cho
Comedy | Crime

Aside from having a girl’s first name, “Sandy Patterson” (Jason “Horrible Bosses” Bateman) is an ordinary guy with a wife, two kids, a house, and a job. When things seem to be looking up, he finds himself suddenly maxed out on all his credit cards. When he is arrested for failure to show up for a court date in Florida he had no idea about, he and the arresting “Detective Reilly” (Morris “Boyz n the Hood” Chestnut) discover that his identity has been stolen.

With his new job on the line because of the bad publicity from the arrest, Patterson realizes that the only way to stop the thief and clear things up is to fly down to Florida and make a citizen’s arrest and bring the thief back to Colorado to stand trial, thereby clearing his name. But getting there and back in one piece will be difficult.

When he discovers the whereabouts of the woman who has stolen his identity, “Diana” (Melissa “Bridesmaids” McCarthy), he soon finds out that she is wanted by a violent, off-the-books debt collector (Robert “T1000” Patrick) and two members of organized crime (T.I. “Soul Train” and Genesis “Man on a Ledge” Rodriguez) who are not one bit happy that she ripped them off. Thus begins a cumbersome and unnecessarily difficult journey through several states, with bad guys in hot pursuit—an adventure of frustrations, improbabilities, and stunted humor.

Identity Thief starts out on a wonderfully appealing note. This is due in part to McCarthy’s high energy and Bateman’s priceless expressions. Though it is only funny occasionally – and that by appealing to crude, sexual humor such as the usual “limp dick” putdowns and lounge lizard easiness – it is funny when it is not frustrating. It is frustrating because of the plot logistics, many of which we have to try and look past because they don’t make sense.

At one point, Sandy loses his wallet when he takes off his pants because...a snake crawls up them! What are the odds of that! He tosses them in the bushes, but it is never clear why he can’t just pick them up and put them back on again, or where the wallet went. At the conclusion of the film when it has been tearfully explained that Diana never was able to know her real name, Sandy presents her with “police files” that verify her true identity. But this makes little sense when she’d been arrested and fingerprinted numerous times already and would have known by then. It is subtle problems such as these that make everything seem less than credible (even for a comedy).

Looking past all of these issues can become a problem, like when Sandy must break into his old boss’ account to get emergency funds to get home after his wallet has gone missing. The entire scheme moves the plot along easily enough, but reminds us that none of this would happen like it does.

In the name of good fun, Identity Thief doesn’t entertain us by making us laugh till it hurts, but by giving us a story that eventually plays to our softer sides the longer we watch, although maybe it shouldn’t. Even the way it ends is a reflection of the wobbly writing we are forced to get used to from midway and onward.

And the real humor here doesn’t so much come from McCarthy as it does a cowboy she meets at a bar and is hoping to shake down in a hotel room, a lonely guy named “Big Chuck” (Eric Stonestreet). There are moments when his naturally comedic presence takes away from both leads.

While character and values are the core issues behind it, the movie’s shaky framework and needless scenes/lame antics don’t do it justice. Those looking for nothing more than a light-hearted movie adventure may, nonetheless, be willing to forgive its many faults.