There are two ways to make a comedy. You can make your script humorous and comical by delivering funny and clever dialogue, or you can go all out on the energy level and have your characters perform ridiculous stunts and physical comedy to give your audience entertainment. Either way, comedy is a hard thing to do. It’s tough to hit the funny bone of every single person sitting in theater and hope he or she laughs at the things you intended to be funny. Director Seth Gordon tries to bring both comedy aspects to life in Identity Thief, but is only able to succeed on the latter. The performances from its leads are what make the movie work. If they had casted anyone else, I could only imagine how bad this could have been.
Identity Thief stars Melissa McCarthy as an eccentric woman who steals peoples’ identities and then lives their lives through their credit cards and IDs. When Sandy (Jason Bateman) figures out that he is the victim of this woman’s schemes, he embarks on a trip from Colorado to Florida to find her and take her into police custody so he can get his job and old life back. The set up doesn’t have much in terms of laughs because the real reason the movie works is because of the chemistry McCarthy and Bateman have with each other. When they are apart, it’s not as much fun. When they do come in contact, and the two leads are finally forced to spend all their time together as they travel across the country, the laughs come in bulk. McCarthy is a true comic force, who isn’t afraid to go all out and let her energy fly off the screen, saying anything and everything that comes to her mind. Jason Bateman’s method in comedy isn’t in wild antics, but subtly and sarcasm – things that mesh well with McCarthy’s character when pitted against each other. I don’t care how many times I see it in the trailer, seeing McCarthy get hit by a guitar will never get old.
As I said before, the movie tries to be above slapstick humor and tries to offer a little more meat, but the script is undeniably silly and predictable with sappy moments sprinkled throughout to pass as drama. The more we find out about McCarthy’s character, who tells us her name is Diane, the more frustrating she becomes. She’s not someone with a clear reason for stealing the identities of hard working family men and women, but she does to give the story an interesting twist to your average road trip movie. I do appreciate the way the writers wanted to deviate themselves from the typical road trip movies that have been around for years. It’s a type of movie that seems to have run out of ideas, but by making the characters opposite gender and giving them something to run from to increase the tension are enough to make it unique. The supporting characters scattered throughout the plot are a different story. People come and go in this movie quite often and they leave such a minor impact that you forget about them right away. The parts of the story that are remotely interesting or funny are one on ones with the two leads, and when they aren’t in the picture together, it becomes a drag.
If the trailer made you laugh, that’s great, but don’t count on the movie to be full of many new jokes despite the surprises you won’t see coming. These surprises gave me a good amount of entertainment value, not because what I was watching was always hilarious, but because it kept my interest. For a comedy, this offers a surprising amount of action to go along with the chuckles. Not the amount of action you’d find in your standard Bruce Willis flick, but enough to satisfy most filmgoers. Any comedy that throws in a car chase or two most certainly has my attention.
It may sound like I’m telling you to skip this one, but I do believe fun can be had here. It’s more than worthy of a strong rental or matinee-priced ticket at a theater, just don’t expect a new comedy classic. Identity Thief is light entertainment with silly gags and an even sillier script. It’s filled with elements that wouldn’t normally work, but thanks to the likable and energetic performances from Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, there is enjoyment to be found.