I haven’t seen a decent road trip comedy since, well, ‘Road Trip’ back in 2000. With the poor performance of this year’s ‘The Guilt Trip’, I had some hope that ‘Identity Thief’ would reignite the genre. Unfortunately, due to scripted laughs and an unlikable main character, the movie falls flat. Even if the talented Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman draw a crowd to the box office, word will quickly spread that the film is forgettable and ultimately unsatisfying.
I’ll be the first to admit that I love most everything Melissa McCarthy has been in, from ‘Gilmore Girls’ to ‘Mike and Molly’. Her performance in ‘Bridesmaids’ raised her to uncharted levels of stardom. She’s a lot of fun on-screen and a comedic genius. However, that small part in ‘Bridesmaids’ had more laughs than McCarthy’s entire leading role in ‘Identity Thief’. A non-comedic supporting cast also really lowers the level of comedy throughout.
The victim of this ‘Identity Thief’ is good-guy Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Jason Bateman), a loving family man who works in finance at a major company. When his fast-talking boss (Jon Favreau) tells him to only send giant bonus checks to the executives, he joins several other employees in leaving the company to start their own, led by Daniel Casey (John Cho), who promises Sandy that he’ll make him a Vice President and more than quadruple his salary.
However, before you can say “new job,” Sandy’s credit cards stop working and he’s eventually arrested for credit card fraud. The police quickly realize that his identity was stolen. All of his enormous debts have originated in Winter Park, Florida, whereas Sandy lives in Denver. After a cop (Morris Chestnut) tells him that it could take a year to fix all the damage that has been done to his name and credit, and after his new boss tells him that he has a week to sort out this situation or lose his new job, Sandy sets out to Florida to deal with the thief.
The thief in question (Melissa McCarthy) has several names, but goes by Diana most of the time. She seems to have been stealing others’ identities for many years. She spends her days shopping for outrageous things and her nights running up hefty charges at local bars and clubs. She’s also not above fighting or vomiting on strangers. Once the real Sandy arrives in Florida, he easily locates Diana, to which Diana acts violently. However, after a car crash and few hits to the throat, Diana decides to join Sandy on the trip back to Colorado in order to right her wrongs and help him keep his job, just so long as she doesn’t have to speak to the police.
In a weird and unnecessary plot twist, Sandy is not the only one after Diana. A jailed gangster (Jonathan Banks) has hired two hitmen (T.I. Harris and Genesis Rodriguez) to take her out. A hell-bent bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) will also stop at nothing to bring her to his own form of justice. Realizing that they can’t fly because Diana has no real form of ID, the two decide to drive back to Denver. Sandy can only hope to make it back within his deadline.
The fatal flaw with this film is McCarthy’s character. She comes across way too rude, offensive and abrasive. Yes, she has a soft side, but we hardly see it at all. Diana is so unlikable that you wish Otis Driftwood and Captain Spaulding could show up to teach her a permanent lesson.
That’s not to say that McCarthy doesn’t do a good job. She’s the best part of the movie. Bateman plays the straight-laced guy to a tee, just like always, and is joined by a terrific but under-used supporting cast. The movie has a few laughs here and there, but nothing gut-busting. ‘Identity Thief’ might draw a strong crowd opening weekend, but that crowd will leave unfulfilled.