Formulaic road trip comedy, but the actors make the jokes funny.
|As the cartoonish posters tell us, Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) is a sucker. He just gave his personal identification information to a stranger over the phone. Sandy Patterson (Melissa McCarthy) is the “Identity Thief”. After getting arrested and almost getting fired from his job, the real Sandy Patterson is determined to get his identity back. A stupid but convenient police procedural sets Sandy off across the country to bring the criminal to justice.
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Screenplay by: Craig Mazin
Starring: Jason Bateman, and Melissa McCarthy
It’s the type of film where critics and audiences are at odds. Critics think it’s one of the worst comedies ever made, audiences don’t particularly like it all that much either, but are paying to see it in theatres in droves. Go figure. Well, I liked it. It has its fair share of problems, but it can make you laugh, simply and effectively.
The key to comedy is timing. Bateman is a good comedic actor and he has great comedic timing. His lines are funny enough and we are able to laugh at his misfortunes because we know good will have to come to him eventually. The film itself also has good timing. A handful of well-timed edits had me screaming, laughing and crying in a ball as a snake squirmed its way up Sandy’s pants. The scene that followed handled an animal joke better than most similar comedies do.
Say what you will about Melissa McCarthy, but she’s a good actress based solely on the fact that every character she has played is completely different than any she has played before. “Sandy”/Diana is not Molly, not the filthy Megan, not the scattered Sookie and not any of the darker characters that she played in a few dramas. Diana has no friends (but can buy some using Sandy’s money) because she’s extreme in her actions. But that’s where comedy lies, in the extreme.
“Identity Thief” does take the road trip comedy angle and makes it fairly formulaic with the various obstacles, but that’s also what makes it likable. Sandy is likable, Diana is over-the-top but that’s what makes the comedy work. The film, though, is a “soft R”, meaning the jokes are tame and silly not overly crude or crass. Considering how much audiences love the R-rated comedy, that’s apparently the problem with this movie. It just wasn’t raunchy enough for them. Well, I can like my comedies with a few less swear words and no nudity, so I liked it.