Identity Thief
Universal // R // February 8, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted February 7, 2013
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There aren't very many actresses who have received an Oscar nomination for their performance in a comedy, especially within the past decade. Melissa McCarthy was an absolute riot in the hit Bridesmaids and even delivers plenty of laughs to TV audiences in Mike & Molly. Under Seth Gordon's direction, she now stars in the latest comedy called Identity Thief. There has been a massive campaign behind this picture, making McCarthy's involvement the focal point, but don't be fooled into thinking that this is the next Bridesmaids. While this comedy won't be leaving theaters rolling in laughter, it will certainly deliver some laughs and even a little bit of heart.

Mild-mannered Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) is a successful man with a great job and a loving family. However, his life begins to fall apart when a deceptively harmless-looking woman, Diana (Melissa McCarthy), steals his identity. She spends large amounts of his money and commits numerous crimes under his name, which gets him in trouble at work and with law enforcement. Sandy departs on a journey from Denver to Miami to take Diana to the police in order to clear his name and get his life back. It doesn't take long for Sandy to discover just how clever Diana can be.

Screenwriter Craig Mazin doesn't waste a moment, as he instantly jumps into the bulk of the story. Sandy Patterson gets himself into a lot of trouble after he gives a substantial amount of his personal information out to a woman over the phone. The audience is kept in the dark as to who Diana really is. While we know that nearly every word that comes out of her mouth is a lie, we're constantly trying to figure out who this character truly is. She's quickly identified as the antagonist of the film, but we learn that there's a lot more to her persona than just a sly criminal. She begins to open herself up a little bit as she spends more time with Sandy. Despite the unfortunate reasons for these characters having to meet, they learn a lot of values from each other through this eventful adventure. Identity Thief often plays with the irony of a thief and her morals.

While the main characters are a blast on screen, the same cannot be said about the events unfolding around them. Sandy and Diana are constantly being pursued by hit men, which hurts the dynamic of the picture. This was a lazy way to create the inevitable climax, which could have easily been carried out solely by the leads. The second and third acts of the film spend too much time on these "supporting" roles, as the filmmakers attempt to create a game of "cat and mouse," which constantly feels awkward and out of place. They don't aid in developing the characters, and they don't generate many jokes. Instead of dedicating any screen time to these subplots, perhaps Mazin should have trusted his primary roles and developed their journey to the fullest extent. This could have transformed a decent movie into a much stronger motion picture.

Despite the over-the-top and unnecessary subplots, the second half of the running time is quite a bit funnier than everything preceding it. Without giving too much away, Sandy and Diana experience some hilarious situations, especially the one found in the woods at night. A lot of the jokes have been heard before, but they're used in an original context, which works on a "hit-and-miss" basis. While I found myself chuckling on multiple occasions, there should have been more big laughs. Towards the end of the movie, the audience begins to grow a lot closer to Sandy and Diana. Identity Thief incorporates dramatic elements and makes us genuinely care about what happens to the main characters, even though we can predict every plot point they encounter. Screenwriter Craig Mazin provides a couple of characters that viewers will be able to easily connect with.

This film wouldn't have worked without this particular cast. Jason Bateman delivers a solid performance as Sandy Patterson. He's convincing in the role, as he easily relates to the audience as an ordinary man going through a difficult situation. Melissa McCarthy is the absolute star of this movie. She fills Diana's character to the brim with the same charm and charisma that got her popular in the first place. Her delivery elevates average dialogue to something audiences will find rather funny. McCarthy has quite a bit of comedic chemistry with Bateman, which makes them a great match on screen. However, she also manages to draw viewers in through the more emotional moments the story has to offer. There are a variety of entertaining cameos offered by Eric Stonestreet, Jon Favreau, Ben Falcone, Ellie Kemper, and others. This is an excellent cast that makes this script much more appealing than it would have been with other actors.

There isn't anything particularly outstanding about Identity Thief, but the cast does what they can with it. While I enjoyed the film, it should have been funnier, which could have happened if the story wasn't distorted to make room for unnecessary subplots. Writer Craig Mazin puts a small dose of confidence in his characters towards the end of the film, when he allows the story to express more emotions, which worked in the picture's favor. Identity Thief isn't the raging comedy audiences are expecting, but there's enough here to make this worth a light recommendation. Viewers will get the most out of this picture by experiencing it with an audience.

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