Someone is going to let Melissa McCarthy realize the comedic promise she showed in Bridesmaids one day, right? Someone -- anyone -- in Hollywood has to see that there's more than her to lowbrow slapstick gags, right? Here's hoping, a sentiment that will require me to forget about Identity Thief just as soon as I have completed my review of it if I'm to fully commit to it.
McCarthy, in what amounts to her first starring role in a feature film, plays a small-time con woman who draws do-gooder-to-a-fault Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) into her orbit after she steals his identity and runs up enormous credit card bills under his name. Patterson decides to drive from Denver to Florida to apprehend her personally. His initial success in convincing her to trek back to Colorado sets up what I can only presume director Seth Gordon thought would be "comedic hijinks."
I can accept the borderline insane decision by Bateman's character to leave his wife and children at home while he tracks down a criminal alone. Sometimes absurd comedy requires an absurd, nonsensical decision by one of its characters to get things moving. What was difficult to swallow was pretty much everything else.
McCarthy's signature punchline is a little too literal for my taste -- she punches just about anyone who tries to hold her accountable for her actions in the throat. She's loud, obnoxious and ridiculous throughout, but not in an amusing way. It hardly seems like it's her fault given the material she's working with.
Bateman meanwhile is a watered-down version of Michael Bluth, a straight man in a film that doesn't generate enough laughs to merit a character meant to contrast the outrageousness taking place all around him.
Finally, we have yet another comedy that tries to make hay out of the economic misery that has pervaded America and the rest of the world for the last half-decade. Bateman is a timid accountant motivated to chase McCarthy by the prospect of his own financial ruin. McCarthy, meanwhile, is an orphan with no support system; it's easy to understand why she's stealing credit card information. I wouldn't say it's impossible to turn that misery in to laughs, but I would say that there isn't a good track record to support the idea that it's easy.
Identity Thief is monumentally lousy addition to that poor track record and it does nothing with McCarthy's considerable potential, making it quite the waste of time.