It seems the dearth of Hollywood comedies has reached epidemic proportions, and with the newest release, Identity Thief, that record continues unabated. If any laughs are garnered from this Seth Gordon directed production, they are cheaply achieved indeed, and come through a few grotesque moments dealing with voyeurism or people getting shot and stuffed into automobile trunks.
Yes, it’s that funny . . . And, the many victims of identity theft will more than attest to the sheer number of yocks presented by the situation.
Plotwise, for what it is worth, has the world’s biggest financial idiot (even though he is a respected, high-paid accountant), Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman, so good in TV’s “Arrested Development,” but has hosted a pedigree of bad comedies, including “The Change-Up,” “Horrible Bosses” and “Couples Retreat“), who has his life stolen by a con artist (Melissa McCarthy, TV series “Mike & Molly” and was actually nominated for an Academy Award for “Bridesmaids,” which goes to show how far Oscar has fallen since 1929).
It’s not just his financial situation that is almost ruined, however, but his personal life and career since she is busted on a felony rap and is involved with stolen credit cards as well as drugs and other fun things. This is especially bad because Sandy is dealing with another horrible boss, Harold Cornish (“Iron Man” director Jon Favreau), and has just begun what could be a lucrative new position with colleague Daniel Casey (John Cho, “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas“). All of that is in jeopardy, though, until he can go to Florida where the criminal abides, bring her back and force her to confess to his boss. Yep, that’s likely to happen.
But, since this is a movie, we know all possibilities are on the table, so Sandy drives to the Sunshine State and actually persuades her to come with him to Colorado. Like “Midnight Run,” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” “Guilt Trip” or any number of road films, the option of flying — which would reduce the travel as well as film time — is not an option and driving back to Denver seems the only solution.
This allows any number of comic situations to develop. Unfortunately, nothing remotely humorous occurs during this tedious adventure and in another situation where more is WAY too much, the moronic couple fights constantly (she seems to punch EVERYONE in the throat), ends up being chased by not only violent drug hitmen, but a psychotic bounty hunter (Robert Patrick, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day“), to boot. Also along the way, she also gets involved with a drunken guy (Eric Stonestreet, “Bad Teacher“) at a bar which leads to an embarrassing and nauseating sequence which lowers the grade of Identity Thief even further (if that’s conceivable).
Do we care that Sandy misses his wife (Amanda Peet, “2012“) and his two nondescript daughters, or that he is really a nice guy who is caught in a situation beyond his control? Do we understand that the con artist has been alone and pushed around all of her life, or does not know her real name or has to steal identities because she has none of her own?
Absolutely not, because by the time Identity Thief concludes and McCarthy has a tear-jerking moment in a St. Louis restaurant, her character is so annoying, repulsive and over-the-top ridiculous, all care, concern and empathy is thrown out the window and we are just anxious to get out of the cinemaplex as quickly as possible. That’s sad, because while Bateman just goes through the motions of the sad-sack, put-upon milktoast, McCarthy has flashes of very decent work.
But it’s all for naught. With the most ludicrous of situations, no real laughs and its inability to decide if it wants to be a dramatic comedy or comedic drama or whatever, Identity Thief could be titled “Time and Money Thief,” since it is an apt description of what the viewer will suffer by seeing this most disappointing picture.