Identity Thief (2013)
“She’s having the time of his life.
Director: Seth Gordon
Cast: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, John Cho
Synopsis: Mild mannered businessman Sandy Patterson travels from Denver to Florida to confront the deceptively harmless looking woman who has been living it up after stealing Sandy’s identity.
Intentionally or otherwise, every movie has a message, and the message contained within the bloated body of Identity Thief is that we shouldn’t be too hard on those who seek to steal our identities and systematically destroy our lives because, chances are, their crimes are really just a cry for help arising from a difficult childhood during which love was at a premium. Screenwriter Craig Mazin, whose previous credits include a couple of Scary Movie movies and the two out of three Hangover movies that weren’t funny, inadvertently inserts this message into a road trip format so cliched that you almost have to admire his nerve in dressing it up as something different.
Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) is an average middle-ranking executive in some faceless corporation that neither appreciates nor cares about him. He’s responsible for payments into and out of the company, so you’d think he’s be the last person to fall victim to the kind of phone scam that even my eighty-something mum would spot from a mile away. The scam is perpetrated by Diana (Melissa McCarthy), an overweight woman who clearly suffers from self-esteem issues and lives a lonely, friendless existence. She’s also foul-mouthed, selfish and violent, but don’t worry, you’ll soon grow to love and cherish her. Immediately after obtaining Patterson’s social security number, home address, etc, with laughable ease, Diana manufactures a credit card in his name and sets about maxing it out on makeovers and luxuries. This couldn’t happen at a worse time for Sandy, who’s just accepted an offer from a number of fellow unappreciated employees who’ve decided to branch out on their own, and his new boss (John Cho) is less than thrilled to have the police crawling over their shiny new office when Sandy is suspected of being a drugs dealer after Diana is briefly apprehended by the police. Because Sandy’s stolen identity is draining his bank balance in Florida and he’s based in Colorado, the local police won’t do anything to help him, so Sandy is forced to travel across country to locate Diana and bring her home to face the music. For most of us that would be a daunting task, but Sandy manages it with surprising ease — it’s the hellish journey back to Colorado that proves to be the challenge…
Identity Thief is irritating in two ways. Firstly, we feel much more sharply than Sandy a sense of moral outrage at the way a stranger uncaringly sabotages his life, and the humiliations that follow, particularly when some offensive shop assistant cuts up his credit card. The way that former colleague who persuaded him to leave his employer to become a director of his new venture, tries to drop him over the theft of his identity was also difficult to watch. It was necessary to provide the required deadline element to the plot, but if I’d been Sandy I’d have probably ended up decking the guy. The second way in which Identity Thief irritates is in the way it keeps coming close to setting up some genuinely humorous moments but lacks the punch line time and time again. Melissa McCarthy is also irritating, but at least she’s supposed to be, and she does pretty well in a role which calls upon her to make the audience identify with a loser who is unlikeable in every way.
Also added into the mix are rapper Tip ‘T. I.’ Harris and Genesis Rodriguez as a pair of mob enforcers whose wrath Diana has somehow invoked, and Robert Patrick as a grizzled skip tracer also on Diana’s trail. None of these characters really add much to the movie, other than to extend its running time to an unforgivable 111 minutes. For the last twenty minutes or so it honestly feels as if the damn thing will never end, so I can only be thankful I was watching the theatrical version rather than the unrated version which runs just over the two hour mark.