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Road to Ruin

by Laura Leon on February 13, 2013

Identity Thief
Directed by Seth Gordon


If the sight of a fat woman masturbating with a Waterpik or being spanked mid-coitus by a beefy cowboy-boots-wearing salesman sounds like your idea of classic comedy, Identify Theft is the film for you. If, however, you don’t find obesity in and of itself—just the very fact of it, hanging out there like roadkill in a vulture’s pathway—a laugh riot, than reconsider which movie you go see this week.

Identity Thief

Diana (Melissa McCarthy) is a loud Floridian scamming hapless souls by pretending, over the phone, to represent a credit-card security service. One of her victims is Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman), a perpetual nice guy saddled with a horrible boss (Jon Favreau) and a lot of bills. He and pregnant wife Trish (Amanda Peet) and their two little girls live in a cramped apartment. Bateman does wonders in making us feel the tight squeeze of his character’s check-by-check existence—so much so that when Diana’s scam comes to light, we feel sucker-punched and panicky. (If there’s one thing this often-unfunny comedy does well, it is evoke the a real sense of economic insecurity.)

The justice system proves too slow to save Sandy from ruin. So he takes it upon himself to go to Florida and convince Diana to return to Denver with him in order to explain to everyone that it was her, not Sandy, who racked up massive debt and skipped bail. And so begins a road-trip-buddy storyline that introduces scary bounty hunters, pesky snakes, a tedious revenge ploy on Sandy’s former boss—and too many “aw shucks” moments in which we are given a glimpse of Diana’s inner pain.

Gimme a break.

McCarthy can be outrageously funny, especially when acting as if she’s the cat’s meow and don’t you know it, but too often this turns into grotesqueries involving almost anything puerile except farting. Bateman plays beautifully off his costar’s comic turns, but is especially good when he lets loose Sandy’s frustration. Identity Theft has two very gifted actors—and, unfortunately, a ramshackle script that does neither of them any favors.