Melissa McCarthy showed what she can do with a really great script in “Bridesmaids” and “This Is 40.” In “Identity Thief” she shows she can wring a laugh even out of a really bad one. She gives nothing less than 110 percent, and it’s her sheer persistence and energy that pushes this comedy jalopy over the finish line.
Without the talents of McCarthy, and a pitch perfect Jason Bateman “Identity Thief” would be a broken down mess. It still is a broken down mess, an overlong, hopelessly contrived shambling road trip movie that tacks on endless subplots while taking a shotgun approach to the comedy. But the two stars generate some R-rated laughs out of what is otherwise a very bumpy ride indeed.
Jason Bateman is a typical Jason Bateman character, a responsible father of two at a finance firm who has his identity stolen by serial credit card thief Melissa McCarthy. Soon she’s maxing out his charge cards, living the high life in Florida and ruining his credit. For reasons too stupid to go into here, Bateman resolves to go down to Florida to retrieve her so he can restore his financial good name.
Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman are two very funny people indeed. They know exactly what they need to do to get a laugh without losing sight of their character, and they’re intensely likeable even when doing unlikeable things. And they expend so much effort to salvage what laughs there are- you want to applaud them for a job well done. But the material they are handed is frequently beneath them.
Every road trip movie places obstacles in the way of its protagonists. It’s the journey not the destination that’s part of the fun. But the situations they are placed in too often come off as needlessly contrived. There are subplots involving a bounty hunter, and two mob assassins on their tail, that serve only to prolong the proceedings and ultimately go nowhere. And the movie frequently takes something that was mildly amusing at first (such as McCarthy singing along to rap music) and then runs it right into the ground so it becomes downright annoying by the 12th time.
The film takes a jarring sentimental turn towards the end, with McCarthy revealing the human soul behind her curly haired criminal. Her spectacular skills help make the mawkish pablum more palatable than it really should be, but it feels forced and unnecessary.
That’s not to say I didn’t laugh during “Identity Thief,” I did so heartily on several occasions.
But the laughs seem to vaporize instantly into thin air- so you may have trouble recalling what exactly you found funny in the first place.