Movie review: 'Identity Thief' more frantic than funny


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Identity Thief" is a mildly amusing, utterly forgettable and all over the map comedy that banks on audience affection for Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.

He is Sandy Bigelow Patterson, a Denver husband and father of two with a third child on the way who earns $50,000 a year working in accounts processing for a big investment firm. His first name is a tribute to baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax, but it buys him teasing from strangers who think it's not a manly man's moniker.

It, along with his identity, is stolen by Diana, a Floridian who believes in retail therapy, spins elaborate tales for strangers and is happy to treat an entire bar to tequila, even if it means a bar tab of $2,148. It's not her money, after all.


'Identity Thief'

2 stars = Mediocre
Ratings explained

  • Starring:

    Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy.

  • Rating:

    R for sexual content and language.


Her use of Sandy's name and credit cards comes at the worst possible time as he's starting a new job. When, due to the identity theft, he's implicated in a drug investigation and the cops turn up at his office, Sandy decides to take matters into his own hands and head to Florida.

Finding his financial impersonator isn't hard; keeping track of her and trying to get her to Denver is. Turns out she sold some credit cards to the wrong guy and he's ordered a hit on her, and if that weren't drama enough, a skip tracer (sort of a bounty hunter) is on her trail, too.

"Identity Thief" starts off on a harsh, ugly note -- Sandy launches objects at diminutive Diana's head, she kicks him in the crotch and punches him in the throat -- but turns into a road-trip comedy with far more (and R-rated) mishaps than in "Guilt Trip" and then a buddy picture with tears, transformations and lessons all around.

This tepid comic fantasy, which makes repeated jokes about Sandy's virility and includes a lusty, noisy motel interlude, borrows a bit from director Seth Gordon's "Horrible Bosses," which featured Mr. Bateman as a browbeaten employee who couldn't say goodbye to his dying grandmother.

Filling the cameo of odious executive here is Jon Favreau as a fat-cat boss who is happy to give himself and others sizable bonuses while bypassing the little people who depend on such bumps, just like in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

"Identity Thief" also stars Amanda Peet as Sandy's pregnant wife; Eric Stonestreet, Cam on "Modern Family," as a stranger the travelers meet in a bar; Robert Patrick as the skip tracer; T.I. Harris and Genesis Rodriguez as would-be assassins tracking the pair; Morris Chestnut as a Denver detective; and John Cho as one of Sandy's co-workers.

A year after being nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in "Bridesmaids," the "Mike & Molly" star has effortlessly graduated to leading lady. Clad in a gingham blouse decorated with sunflowers, blue slacks and flats most of the time, she's working at full tilt, whether sprinting, conniving, crying or ad-libbing in an effort to find the funny.

But here's hoping she flexes some new movie muscles down the road, including in a straight drama that wouldn't require manic energy or craziness. In the meantime, the faux Sandy is a vivid reminder to never give your Social Security and birth date over the phone to a stranger, no matter how helpful and sweet she may seem.

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Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.


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