Director: Seth Gordon
Writer: Craig Mazin
Stars: Melissa McCarthy, and Jason Bateman
Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Jason Bateman) is an average guy, married, has two daughters with a third on the way, lives in Denver in an apartment, and is good at his job. He makes a living but is not compensated to his ability. He hopes for a raise, or at least the return of company bonuses. One morning Sandy receives a call from an identity theft reporting agency informing him there may have been an attempt to steal his identity. The attempt was reported and handled. The agency then asks him if he would be interested in participating in a free trail basis for their services and he agrees; giving them his full name, date of birth, and social security number.
Harold Cornish (Jon Favreau), Sandy’s boss, is a prick. Cornish calls Sandy into his office to authorize the issuance of bonuses to select individuals–Sandy not being one of them. After enduring Cornish’s berating attitude and smug arrogance, Sandy performs his duty of releasing the checks. Later, Daniel Cassey (John Cho) approaches Sandy with a job offer with some other employees. A few are going to break away and start their own firm and they want Sandy to join them. At five times his current pay and with a third daughter on the way Sandy doesn’t hesitate.
Unfortunately for Sandy, Diana (Melissa McCarthy) is about to enter his life. Diane has now become “Sandy” and proceeds to live large: buying drinks for all at a bar, buying whatever she wants whenever she wants, and generally not caring about anything. The not caring about anything eventually gets “Sandy” in trouble with the police, arrested, and a trail date she bails on because its “Sandy’s” date and not Diana’s. Missing the trail date causes an arrest warrant to be issued for “Sandy Bigelow Patterson”. And Sandy Bigelow Patterson of Denver gets arrested for missing that date.
After determining his identity has been stolen and getting into still further financial and legal problems, Sandy decides the only way to solve his problems is to get “Sandy” to Denver to clear his name. One air flight, one fender bender, two physical altercations, a guitar to the head, and a gun shot later Sandy and “Sandy” are on a cross-county road trip from “Florida” to Denver.
Though Identity Thief is laugh-out-loud funny when McCarthy is on-screen, it deflates without her. Bateman plays the straight-man well, but has nothing to do and is dull when not performing against her. And even though McCarthy is up for anything the script throws her, the script lets her down. An attempt to give Diana more emotional heft feels tacked-on and disingenuous.
And in actuality, most the story feels tacked-on and disingenuous. Gangsters are introduced to cause Sandy & Diana to run, but are never really a threat again. Mazin, the writer, feeling the gangsters weren’t enough then introduces a skiptracer (Robert Patrick) to also chase them. Whereas the motivation of the mobsters to chase the leads in Some Like It Hot make sense and work within the story to move it forward, in Identity Thief it feels like someone in a room asked, “how do we get them running?” And someone else answered, ” how about we…”
Though only 112 minutes, the movie is flabby and would have worked much better at 90 minutes. By excising the gangsters and retooling the skiptracer, the overall length of the film would be shorter, the story stronger, and the laughs more frequent.
The best thing that can be said about Identity Thief is that it showcases what a talent Melissa McCarthy is. With the exception of Kristen Wiig, no other comedic actress could have carried this movie.
Grade = C-
PS – I put quotation marks on Florida because the only view of Florida in the film was a stock footage shot of South Beach–nowhere near Lakeland–used as an establishing shot. All the other “Florida” shots were in Georgia.