Thursday, February 7, 2013


Melissa McCarthy is the new queen of R-rated comedy. After her raucous bit in last year's "This Is 40," now "Identity Thief" and later this summer "Heat" opposite Sandra Bullock, we'll be seeing a whole lot of her. Unfortunately for this laugher in particular, the movie doesn't do the comic actress justice. The slapstick road movie from director Seth Gordon ("Horrible Bosses") is a fun teaming of McCarthy and Jason Bateman, but it ultimately harkens back to better attempts at the genre.

Bateman plays a mid-level accountant named Sandy Bigelow Patterson whose name, and entire identity, falls victim to McCarthy's female criminal, Diana. She makes a living by stealing people's credit cards, going on wild spending/drinking sprees and committing crimes in other people's names. When the Denver-based Sandy gets arrested for skipping his court hearing in Florida, he knows something isn't right. The cops explain his situation, which also threatens to ruin his job, and the only way to clear his name is to take matters into his own hand by collecting his identity thief from Florida and force a confession out of her.

Commence the road trip. McCarthy inhibits hilarious physical comedy, throwing herself around like a big rag doll. The initial brawl between Sandy and Diana is a hoot as he tries to bring her into his custody. And there are plenty of cameos sprinkled throughout to keep the journey interesting, including Eric Stonestreet as a rowdy cowboy named Big Chuck, Ellie Kemper as a southern belle waitress and Jonathan Banks of "Breaking Bad" as a hardened crook. The side plot of Sandy and Diana being chased by both a bounty hunter and a random pair of hot-headed criminals, however, grows tiresome and increasingly unfunny.

Some of the slapstick comedy later on also gets a little too outrageous, most notably a scene involving a snake in the woods that's downright fake and stupid. The movie is a string of weird encounters in the style of Gordon's Reese Witherspoon/Vince Vaughn holiday flick "Four Christmases." It also channels the Tina Fey/Steve Carrell comedy farce "Date Night" but with lesser results.

"Identity Thief" starts with great momentum, but the script provides meager material for the actors with a lot of gags falling flat. But then it also ends surprisingly well as McCarthy brings a sentimental soul to an otherwise seemingly brute and soulless criminal character. Thank god for her because otherwise the movie would be downright unendurable.

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