Title: Identity Thief
Director: Seth Gordon (‘Horrible Bosses‘)
Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthey and Amanda Peet
A director casting two high-profile comedic actors in a road-trip comedy, one of whom was one of the leads in his last successful film, should be a guaranteed setup for another memorable movie. Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthey are two of the more well-known, famous comedic actors in Hollywood right now, and ultimately proved to have a natural chemistry working together in the new film ‘Identity Thief.’ Unfortunately, the comedy’s director, Seth Gordon, failed to capitalize on the success of his last comedy, ‘Horrible Bosses,’ and included predictable, underwhelming stunts and effects in his latest effort.
‘Identity Thief’ follows Sandy Patterson (Bateman), a Denver accounts representative who starts a new job as a vice-president at a start-up company with several of his co-workers who are also striving to make a better living. However, his new boss, Daniel Casey (John Cho), puts Sandy on suspension after learning Sandy has defaulted on six credit cards. After Sandy is arrested for missing a court date in Orlando for assault, he soon realizes from the police that his identity has been stolen by a woman who has been spending all of his money.
In order to save his job and protect his family, including his wife, Trish (Amanda Peet), their two daughters and another baby on the way, Sandy has one week to hunt down the con artist who has stolen his money. Sandy travels to Florida in order to coax the woman, Diana (McCarthey), to travel back to Colorado with him, so that he can get his job back. However, Sandy and Diana encounter trouble on their road trip, including a persistent skiptracer (Robert Patrick) and two thugs-Julian (T.I.) and Marisol (Genesis Rodriguez)-who are all intent on catching Diana for their own purposes. While Sandy is determined on safely returning Diana to the police in Denver, and making sure no one else grabs her along they way, he unpredictably begins viewing her as a friend once he truly begins to get to know her.
Bateman and McCarthy are both fittingly cast in their respective roles as Sandy and Diana, and naturally play off of each other’s quirks through amusing running gags that wittily drive the comedy. The actor once again embraced the every man he has perfected in recent years. Initially portraying Sandy as a career-driven family man who’s only focused on providing for his wife and daughters, Bateman genuinely transforms his character into a free spirit who’s willing to take chances. Whether he’s warding off sexual advances by Diana and her new friend, Big Chuck (Eric Stonestreet), in a dingy Georgia bar and motel, or commanding an account rep in St. Louis to grant him access to his former boss’ financial information, in order to support the last part of their trip, Bateman makes the character both relatable and comically entertaining.
McCarthy, who draws on her Academy Award-nominated role as the fierce, independent, strong-minded Megan from the 2011 hit comedy ‘Bridesmaids,’ easily relates to the free-spirited Diana in ‘Identity Thief.’ She unsympathetically steals money from unsuspecting victims across the country, as she feels she deserves all the products she fraudulently buys. But like anyone afraid of getting caught and being arrested for her crimes, she uses her quick wit and sarcasm to protect her freedom, and distract anyone who poses her harm. Whether running from Sandy on a highway and joking about his quick ability to catch her, or obnoxiously and inappropriately singing to him, McCarthy charismatically and emotionally plays her law-breaking character that appeals to Sandy’s sensibilities.
While Bateman and McCarthy have a humorous working relationship together as they comically play off of each other’s different personalities, ‘Identity Thief’ unfortunately falls short on creating captivating, original stunts and physical comedy. Gordon featured overly familiar, yet implausible, stunts throughout the comedy, including Diana walking away unharmed from a car crash in the skiptracer’s truck when Sandy tries to save her to her jumping out of the back window to get away from police in St. Louis. The cliched, overly used stunts take away from the raw, natural humor and jokes that made Sandy and Diana such a mis-matched, but entertaining, duo.
The natural comedic chemistry between Bateman and McCarthy throughout ‘Identity Thief’ not only proves the actors’ ability to entertainingly carry a comedy, but also their ease at creating relatable characters who turn to jokes and humor in times of underlying emotional need. The two surprisingly also learn something from each other as well, with Sandy learning to be confident from Diana, who realizes that actually caring for people can be more fulfilling than any amount of money. Unfortunately, Gordon failed to create any original stunts throughout ‘Identity Thief,’ making the film feel stereotypical of all road trip comedies that follow two mis-matched travelers who learn to like each other.
Written by: Karen Benardello