Bridesmaids standout Melissa McCarthy has truly arrived in Hollywood. You know you're a comedy star when you're handed mediocre material and asked to make it funnier than it deserves to be.
Think a young Eddie Murphy in The Golden Child for an '80s-based example of this principle.
Identity Thief falls squarely in this category, a middling road trip comedy given that McCarthy makeover. She's teamed with Jason Bateman, an oil and water combination which could, in theory, yield a comedy classic.
Instead, McCarthy's scene-stealing shtick pulls some tired gags out from the abyss while Bateman does a series of slow burns over both his co-star's antics and, presumably, a screenplay which continually squanders his gifts.
Bateman plays Sandy, a Denver accountant who stupidly gives his personal information to a stranger posing as an ID security expert.
Turns out the voice on the other line belongs to a Florida-based grifter named Diana (McCarthy) whose house is filled with stolen goods from her ID shenanigans. Diana is an expert thief, but she's lousy at cleaning up her messes. So an appropriately enraged Sandy, his credit cards now maxed out and his new job in jeopardy, heads to Florida to bring her to justice.'
Huh? When did Sandy get deputized? It's a stretch of a plot point, the first of many, but it's a bumpy road trip comedy so we're asked to go along for the ride.
Identity Thief isn't content to have Sandy and Diana duke it out--literally--en route to Denver. The film overlows with half-baked class warfare attempts, from a thoroughly mean one-percent type (Jon Favreau) to a middle class rebellion that never reaches a simmer, let alone a boil.
Even the non-Occupy subplots involving a gangster trying to punish Diana for a lousy ID assignment can't keep our interest, nor does Modern Family standout Eric Stonestreet enhance his movie resume with a silly Southerner entranced by Diana's ... uh ... charms.
And then there's the violence, from Diana throat punching anyone in her way to Sandy bashing her over the head with a guitar. Ouch. Just because McCarthy is a plus-sized woman doesn't mean it's easy to laugh at her being brained.
There's only two ways Identity Thief can end up, and the folks behind the film opt for a resolution that stands in direct opposition to Diana's cruel line of work.
Director Seth Gordon's last comedy, Horrible Bosses, had the courage of its nasty convictions. Identity Thief has McCarthy, Bateman and just enough wiggle room to let them steal some laughs out from under us.