Film review: Overstuffed Script Bogs ‘Identity Thief’ Comedy Down

Identity Thief 7Identity Thief, the newest comedic venture from Director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses), begins with a simple premise that’s unfortunately become more familiar in recent years: the living nightmare of identity theft. Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman), an accounts processing employee at a big financial firm, gets his identity stolen over the phone by Diana (Melissa McCarthy), a professional con artist from Florida who loves to go on wild shopping sprees.

Patterson’s boss (Jon Favreau) threatens to fire him after discovering his employee’s criminal record and outrageous debt, which of course actually belong to the woman that is ruining his credit. That means Patterson must find Diana and take her to the police in order to clear his good name and provide for his growing family. Sadly for audiences, though, that’s where the believable ends and the outrageous begins.

Identity Thief 13Identity Thief follows the well-worn path of such road-trip comedy films as Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and Due Date. It attempts to set itself apart from those other features, however, by combining that format with just about every conceivable movie cliché moment – a crazy car-chase scene, a wild-sex escapade, kidnapping (by the rapper T.I., aka “Tip” Harris) and police evasion. As if all that weren’t enough, there’s even a beauty makeover.

All of those add-ons don’t elevate the flick or make it exponentially funnier; they end up confusing us by adding unnecessary characters and subplots. All the loose ends and secondary stories the film tries to keep up with create major plot holes and problems that the script by Craig Mazin (who co-wrote 2011’s The Hangover Part II and The Hangover Part III that releases later this year) just skims over, causing Identity Thief to lose credibility and believability.

Identity Thief 8McCarthy and Bateman keep the movie from being a complete flop. McCarthy handles the starring role with her unique larger-than-life style; her work in this film vehicle has her jumping in front of cars, breaking down windows and doors, and throat-punching just about everyone she meets. She provides most of the comedic value to the film with her hilarious antics and keeps us laughing much of the time she’s on screen, which luckily for Identity Thief is nearly all of its running time. McCarthy brings depth to her character as well – something we didn’t really get from her Academy Award-nominated performance in Bridesmaids – bringing us close to tears when she reveals Diana’s heart-wrenching backstory.

Bateman, of Arrested Development fame, is the perfect foil for McCarthy. Embodying the average guy role, his character is sarcastic yet reserved, and in this case rather gullible. The two of them make an amazing comedic team; one can only hope they work together again in something that is more successful.

Identity Thief 11Yes, McCarthy and Bateman provide enough entertainment – at the screening I laughed so hard at them that I cried, as did others around me – to prevent Identity Thief from sinking completely. But ultimately the movie bogs down from too many unnecessary storylines, unrealistic plot points and film clichés.

Identity Thief ( opens today (Feb. 8) in wide release nationally. For locations and show times in the greater Nashville area check the websites of Regal Cinemas (, Carmike Cinemas ( and Malco Theatres ( Rated R for sexual content and language, 107 min. Directed by Seth Gordon and written by Craig Mazin with story by Mazin and Jerry Eeten. Starring Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Genesis Rodriguez, “Tip” Harris, Morris Chestnut, John Cho, Eric Stonestreet and Robert Patrick.


*Photos by Bob Mahoney courtesy Universal Pictures.

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About Katie Mills

Katie Mills is from originally from Palm Springs, Calif., and is currently a senior at Vanderbilt University working towards her bachelor’s degree in English and History. In addition to ArtsNash, she also is the publisher and layout editor of the Vanderbilt Torch, a conservative-oriented magazine created by and for Vanderbilt students. She hopes to remain in Nashville following her graduation this May.