The Austin Chronicle

Identity Thief

Rated R, 111 min. Directed by Seth Gordon. Starring Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, Jon Favreau, “T.I.” Harris, Genesis Rodriguez, John Cho, Morris Chestnut, Robert Patrick, Eric Stonestreet.

REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Feb. 8, 2013

Sandy Bigelow Patterson (McCarthy) is not only living the good life – the very good life – but she is taking barloads of people along with her. Her generosity seems as unlimited as her affection for consumer goods and expensive toys. However, as the title implies, the character’s name is not Sandy, and it’s probably not even Diana, which is the name she most frequently uses.

An accomplished and somewhat daring identity thief, her latest victim is the real Patterson (Bateman), a business executive, straight shooter, husband of Trish (Peet), and father of two – with another on the way. Diana creates and heavily uses several credit cards in Patterson’s name – essentially bankrupting him and destroying his credit, as well as getting him in trouble at his job and with the law. Once he figures out that the woman who has stolen his identity is in Florida, he decides to head down there, capture her, and bring her back home to Denver. Most of the film is centered on their trip back.

McCarthy is a comedic storm system, brilliantly exploding in every direction. She is as adept at executing lines as she is at physical comedy. A bundle of contradictions, she evokes an equally large and perplexing range of reactions in the viewer. Still, as is crucial to most great comedic performances, she creates a really understandable and identifiable person at the center of her consistently hysterical onslaught. Bateman is capable of playing the ideal straight man, although he doesn’t pull it off here as effortlessly as might be expected.

Identity Thief grows more and more uneven as it tries to follow several narrative lines. Not only are there Patterson’s efforts to get Diana to Denver, but she is also being pursued by two other entities: a skip tracer (Patrick) and hit men (Rodriguez, T.I.) contracted by a crime boss to wipe her out. Tonally, the film is all over the place, and outrageous scenes are topped by even more outrageous scenes. There is one outstanding sequence, however, in which the loud Western-clothing-bedecked real estate agent, Big Chuck (Modern Family’s Stonestreet), is solicited by Diana to participate in a kinky sex act. This is also overly exaggerated, but is actually very funny.

Directed by Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses, Four Christmases), the film is ultimately unsatisfying, not as laugh-out-loud funny as it promises to be in the opening. Still, my viewing companion compared McCarthy’s performance to that of John Candy’s in the somewhat similar Planes, Trains & Automobiles – the highest compliment that he could offer.

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