Movie Review: Identity Thief (2013)

Directed by: Seth Gordon

Written By: Craig Mazin and Jerry Eeten

Running Time: 111 minutes

Cast: 

Jason Bateman as Sandy Patterson

Melissa McCarthy as Diana

Amanda Peet as Trish Patterson

Jon Favreau as Harold Cornish

Eric Stonestreet as Big Chuck

 

What type of person steals the identity of another person? A sociopath? A psychopath? A narcissist? Or is it a person that is so damaged by their childhood, hopping from one foster home to another, that they absolutely cannot face their own identity. These are some of the questions posed in the comedy Identity Thief starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy. The film deals with the plight of Sandy Patterson (Bateman), a hardworking family man trying to make ends meet by working in the financial industry. His identity is stolen my Diana (McCarthy), a master con artist who is able to create credit cards and ID's from information she collects from him while posing as the fraud department at his credit card company. She then goes on a wild spending and drinking spree until she gets arrested for assault. She then manages to skip out on her bond. At this point, there is a mugshot and a warrant that eventually leads to the arrest of the real Sandy Patterson. And that is when he realizes how screwed he is: he has an arrest warrant, huge debt, and is about to be fired from his new job, all because of the actions of another person.

There are few other storylines within the film. Sandy starts out working for a real asshole named Harold Cornish, who gives himself big bonuses but leaves out the employees doing the actual heavy lifting, including Sandy. So when the employees get fed up, they stage a walk-out and start their own company. Sandy decides to leave with them so that he can finally become a vice president. But, of course, all of this coincides with the theft of his identity. 

He also has two small children and a third on the way. The family lives in a tiny apartment and barely manages to save more than a few dollars each month.  

Diana, the con artist, has her own share of troubles over and above the arrest while posing as Sandy Patterson. She has somehow gotten in with a drug ring. When they find out that she sold them previously used fraudulent credit cards, a hit is put out on her. She also has a bounty hunter looking for her due to the arrest.

If you're thinking that this is a lot of plotlines for one little comedy, you're right. And you won't be surprised that all of this is brought to you by the same person that wrote The Hangover II, a convoluted and flawed movie if ever there was one. But back to Identity Thief. It's not a total loss. There are some scenes that make it entertaining, all of them including the very talented Melissa McCarthy. She is a master at what she does, and she makes as much as she can out of the mess of a script that she was given.  

Jason Bateman is also very good at playing the straight man, but again, he can't save the film from the poor writing, direction, and editing.  We are supposed to suspend our disbelief to such a degree that we believe that an otherwise smart man who works in the financial industry would just give out all of his personal information to a stranger on the phone just because she said she was with his credit card company. We are also supposed to believe that his coworkers who know him and trust him immediately believe that he is guilty of running narcotics and skipping out on a warrant when they see him at work every day and know he has a young family. I don't buy it.

I would like to point out two scenes that are worth watching. Both take place when Sandy and Diana drive through Georgia on their way to Colorado. The first is in a diner where Diana manages to convince the hostess (played perfectly by Ellie Kemper) that the two are married. After Sandy won't let her order ribs (because they don't have any money), Diana tearfully explains that Sandy is a firefighter who had his private bits destroyed in an accident and can no longer "lay with her as a husband." Diana says that she has sought solace in food and has gained a few pounds as a result. Of course, the hostess thinks Sandy is a monster and brings Diana a huge plate of food "on the house". McCarthy is hilarious as she delivers the tearful speech. But the best line comes at the end when Sandy asks her if she knows what a sociopath is and she replies "Do they like ribs?" as she stuffs a rib in her mouth. Classic!

The second notable scene comes just after the diner scene where Diana goes across the street to a bar and meets Big Chuck (Stonestreet), a big strapping widower who has a lot of money. I laughed to the point of tears as these two flirted with each other and ended up on the dance floor doing what can only be described as the funniest dirty dancing I've ever seen. And may I say that I had no idea Ms. McCarthy was so limber! After Sandy joins them, the three go back to the motel room and the scene ends with the strangest, and again the funniest, sex scene I've ever seen. I don't even know if some of those positions are even humanly possible. It just proves that McCarthy and Stonestreet are masters of comedy, particularly physical comedy. 

But even these scenes can't save an otherwise terrible movie. It's a shame, really, because I really like McCarthy and Bateman and I went into the movie with high hopes. The movie falls apart with the bounty hunter and the two hit men (sorry, one is a woman) who are after McCarthy. I'm sure this is one reason that the movie has a running time of nearly 2 hours. It could easily have been completed in 90 minutes or less and been a better film for it.

I hate to say to skip the whole movie, because if you have a chance to see it for free, at least watch the Georgia scenes. They really are a must-see. But skip the rest. If you do want to see it, you can either get it from Amazon in my store above or from Amazon here:

Thanks for stopping by and getting buzzed! Let me know what you think of the film if you see it. See you soon!