by Coop Cooper
The thought of having your identity stolen is a frightening and all-too-real possibility for any honest citizen. With the sprawling bureaucracy that goes hand in hand with modern life, it’s surprisingly easy for an opportunistic sociopath to steal someone’s personal information and go on a shopping spree, doing damage that is difficult to reverse. This type of crime can ruin reputations and lives. Strange that someone would think that kind of scenario it would make a passable mean-spirited, R-rated comedy.
Financially responsible family man Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) is horrified to discover than his identity has been stolen and his credit destroyed by the vile and unscrupulous thief Diana (Melissa McCarthy). Desperate to clear this up so he can start at a new firm, Sandy finds that the police can do little to help so he resolves to fly to Florida and track Diana down himself. In the midst of capturing her, the two run afoul of gangsters who Diana owes money to. Both Sandy and Diana attempt to drive to Denver while dodging the gangsters and a cutthroat bounty hunter (Robert Patrick). Of course, Diana is determined to make the ride as miserable for Sandy as possible.
Perhaps if this had been played as a pitch dark comedy it may have worked. Instead they went for goofy and gross which McCarthy specializes in, but Bateman does not. And it was clearly the wrong way to go for my tastes.
Rex Reed took heat for his mean ‘fat’ jokes about McCarthy in his review of this film, and while those remarks weren’t easily excused, I think I understood his reason for being so disgusted with her. It’s not the actress he hated as much as the obnoxious and repulsive characters she usually portrays. So far McCarthy’s role as Diana is the worst. It wouldn’t matter if she looked like Olivia Wilde, Diana is so ugly on the inside, there is no redeeming qualities that make her likable. Instead of funny, she’s merely exasperating. When she finally starts showing her human side (a good 90 minutes in), It’s hard to care due to the damage she’s already done. The real tragedy in all of this is McCarthy is truly a talented and fine actress. For real proof of this, I recommend the 2007 indie sci-fi film “The Nines” where McCarthy and Ryan Reynolds are playthings of vengeful gods. I’d really like to see her in more films like that.
Fortunately for Bateman, he plays well off of McCarthy, but most of the comedy setups are too silly or stomach-churning for him to carry. “Plains, Trains and Automobiles” this is not. The only fun part comes near then end when in order to get out of the pickle Diana has caused, she and Sandy have to pull off an identity scam of their own. Then it briefly becomes a heist movie which is far more interesting than how it started. Unfortunately by then, I had already checked out.
If there is anything positive to be gleaned from “Identity Thief” it is to learn how to avoid the criminal act itself. Don’t give your personal info (especially your Social Security number) out over the phone and don’t respond to or click on the links of the unsolicited emails you receive in your inbox, no matter how official they look. Be wary of using unfamiliar ATMs machines and make purchases with credit cards instead of debit cards for added financial protection. If you become a victim, getting things straightened out can take six months to a year… or longer.
This film is lowbrow, plain and simple. It might qualify as a guilty pleasure for some, but to watch it is to suffer what Sandy went through. No one should have to unless you’re an absolute glutton for punishment.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars