Film review: THE IDENTITY THIEF, from Built For Speed

Melissa McCarthy’s foul-mouthed, borderline psychotic performances were highlights of Bridesmaids and This is 40 but in Identity Thief, this routine is looking a bit tired.

McCarthy plays a deranged con woman Diana who steals people’s personal information to create fake credit cards which she uses to fund outrageous spending sprees. Her latest victim is Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) a decent family man who’s just scored a new job working for buddy Daniel (John Cho aka Harold of Harold and Kumar).  In a scene that undermines the film’s credibility from the get-go, savvy corporate guy Sandy, willingly divulges personal details to Diana over the phone.  Suddenly, Sandy finds that his credit cards have maxed out, that he’s accused of crimes he never committed and that he might lose his job. The police are strangely unhelpful so, to clear his name, Sandy sets off to Florida determined to drag Diana back to face justice.

This is the highly unbelievable set up for a very familiar road movie scenario where the uptight businessmen winds up stuck in a car with an annoying nut.  Unfortunately, this is no Planes, Trains and Automobiles or even Due Date as the film barely manages to squeeze a handful of laughs from this well-worn set up. The witless script deftly avoids anything resembling clever comedy and instead relies on people being hit by cars, kicked in the nuts or, in a delightful running gag, being punched in the throat. There’s also that road movie standby of the tone deaf idiot screeching along with songs on the radio.

Jason Bateman does his familiar but always likeable shtick as the decent Everyman drawn into a disaster.  Although, there’s precious little in the script for him to work with, he delivers the film’s few amusing lines in typically droll fashion.  Melissa McCarthy should have been alot funnier than she is in this film. She throws herself into the role and provides a couple of amusing slapstick moments but she barely has a funny line.  She’s also involved in too many weird, overlong, overwrought and unfunny sequences such as a bizarre sexual encounter with a plus size cowboy (Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet).

Director Seth Gordon, who has some comic credibility having worked on The Office and Modern Family, just can’t settle on a consistent tone.  He keeps making jarring gear changes between violent slapstick and syrupy sentimental scenes where the film (superficially) tries explain Diana’s sociopathic behaviour.   Any attempt to make us sympathise with Diana fails dismally, though, as she’s obnoxious from start to finish.  Adding to the mess are badly underwritten and unfunny subplots in which criminals Genesis Rodriguez and rapper TI, (both of whom look like supermodels) and bounty hunter Jason Patrick are also pursuing Diana.

Another lazy obvious comedy isn’t what cinema needs right now and it’s only Jason Bateman’s steadying presence and a few slivers of McCarthy lunacy that saves this film from complete turkeydom.

Nick’s rating: Two stars.

Classification: MA 15+.

Director(s): Seth Gordon.

Release date: 4th April 2013.

Running time: 111 mins.

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