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Identity Thief: movie review

He was a decent sitcom actor until Arrested Development unearthed his inner droll comedian; she was a bit player who, thanks to a bravura turn in Bridesmaids, was immediately added to Hollywood’s comic A-list. Separately, Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy bring impeccable timing and impressive improv skills to anything they do. Put these two dynamos together and it would be virtually impossible to make a movie that wasn’t omigod hilarious, right? Right?

From the famous-last-words department comes this comedic felony that efficiently wastes not one but two major talents in one fell swoop. It starts out promisingly: No sooner has McCarthy’s scam artist bilked Bateman’s financial-industry everyguy out of his Social Security number, etc., before she’s charging jetskis and extravagant nightclub tabs to his credit card. Watch McCarthy’s face as she injects such wide-eyed, gosh-all glee into her character’s mania; it’s like observing an animated Disney critter on a crack high. Then listen to the deadpan way Bateman addresses his kids at a birthday dinner (“Thank you all for coming”). Enjoy those brief guffaws, folks, since once his disgraced hero decides to drag this credit-fraud criminal from Florida to Colorado—bring on the gratuitous bounty hunter and drug-lord henchmen!—the silence that greets the film’s desperate lunges at humor becomes deafening.

After his previous movie Horrible Bosses (2011), former documentarian Seth Gordon established that cringe comedy really wasn’t his forte; this painful endeavor confirms he should stick to nonfiction. No matter how may times Identity Thief switches tracks, nothing works—it fails as a star vehicle, a recession-era satire, a WTF white-collar-grunt revenge tale, a Midnight Run–style buddy flick, a gross-out laughfest and a bathetic tale of broken souls. No amount of stolen guises can fix it.

Follow David Fear on Twitter: @davidlfear

Release details

Duration: 107 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Seth Gordon
Cast: Jason Bateman
Melissa McCarthy
John Cho