Identity Thief is a second-rate comedy with superlative talent. Why second rate? Let’s start the mostly uninspired script. Its lazy cribbing from the blueprint of the infinitely superior Planes, Trains and Automobiles is pretty shameful. Replace Steve Martin with Jason Bateman and John Candy with Mellissa McCarthy. Then shake up the circumstances that justify why this pair must travel together. In this case, a victim of identity theft, Bateman as Sandy Patterson, must actually find, apprehend and bring into custody, the criminal himself in an effort to clear his good name. McCarthy plays the proverbial thief who goes by the name Diana at one point. It’s a setup with potential, but the script just doesn’t have enough laughs to sustain the 108 minute running time.
There are too many scenes where nothing of interest happens. Perhaps that explains why the plot has been made needlessly complex. There’s enough conflict amongst our star duo during their road trip together, so it’s perplexing why the screenwriters felt the compulsion to add not one, not two, but three baddies in relentless pursuit. Robert Patrick is a skiptracer that has been hired to locate Diana after she jumped bail. Then there are a couple of thugs played by Génesis Rodríguez and T.I. who are also hot on Diana’s trail because she gave their boss some bad credit cards. It’s hopelessly contrived. The characters are completely unnecessary because they barely even interact with our star twosome. Their presence is simply a distraction from the story at hand. Whenever these pursuers are on screen, the comedy comes to a crashing halt.
Despite all this, Bateman and McCarthy do have chemistry. Not as a romantic couple, but as a comedic duo. Their repartee is the ONLY reason that this buddy comedy has any merit whatsoever. I challenge you not to chuckle during McCarthy’s rendition of ‘Milkshake’ by Kelis or giggle at Bateman’s escalating exasperation. Without them, this road trip would have never even left the garage. With that said, her character’s behavior is wildly inconsistent. McCarthy is forced to play the fraud from Florida with a fluctuating personality that is bordering on schizophrenic. She vacillates between an unrepentant fiend and a misunderstood outsider. I suppose the latter portrayal makes the saccharine ending that tugs on your heartstrings a little easier to accept. Unfortunately, as much as I love the two stars, I cannot in good conscience give this film a pass.