You can make wacky comedy out of a zany premise, and you can make a thoughtful comedy out of a serious premise. But if you’re trying to coax a farce out of heavy subject matter, you’d better be ready to do jumping jacks.
The 400 Word Review: Identity Thief
By Sean Collier
February 10, 2013
Fortunately, Melissa McCarthy is around for that task.
Identity Thief suffers under a weighty set up: Jason Bateman has got a lovely wife (Amanda Peet), two beautiful kids and an under-compensating accounting gig. When some of his buddies break off to form a new financial firm, they want to make him rich; unfortunately, a crafty con woman in Florida has stolen his identity, thrust him into debt and been charged with a series of felonies under his name.
Some clunky machinations deliver us unwillingly into a road comedy/getaway flick, as Bateman attempts to extract McCarthy from a life of ill-gotten speedboats. She’s not too keen on the idea of admitting her crimes, but there’s no time to argue — the bad guys are after her! Several bad guys of indeterminate motivation, in fact! Will they get back to Denver in time to save his job? Will she reveal a heart of gold? Will any real-world consequences be suffered?
The big question, though: how often will someone fall down?
Without McCarthy, Identity Thief might’ve been dreadful, a too-dumb, too-long flop. Bateman and supporting players Jon Favreau, T.I. and Eric Stonestreet do fine, but the humor is carried exclusively on McCarthy’s shoulders. Her task is not only to replicate the laughs she fought violently for in Bridesmaids and This is 40, but also to create some sympathy in this endlessly problematic script; it is to her eternal credit (and hopefully her growing reputation) that she succeeds.
The unwieldy aspects of the story (not to mention a bloated 112 minute runtime) prevent Identity Thief from being enjoyable end-to-end. Director Seth Gordon — who managed to make hay with dark material two years back in Horrible Bosses, and is responsible for one of the best documentaries of the last decade, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters — should’ve said “no” a bit more often.
Thankfully, Melissa McCarthy is as close to a sure thing as you’re likely to get right now in big-screen comedy. She’s proven that she can carry a movie with Identity Thief; now let’s get her a script worthy of her talent.