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Review: 'Identity Thief' keeps audience laughing

By John Nicholson
On February 13, 2013

Identity Thief is an agreeable, innocuous feature that combines the conventions of the road and the buddy film genres.
The comedy stars Melissa McCarthy (Brides Maids) as a con artist who steals people's identities, issues bogus credit cards in their names and runs up huge tabs indulging herself in jewelry, cosmetics and alcohol. She gets away with it because she targets people with names that could be either male or female. In the case of Identity Thief, she tricks Sandy Patterson, Jason

Bateman (Horrible Bosses, Arrested Development), into giving her his vital information. When Sandy is almost arrested and his credit card is cut up, he discovers the ruse and, in order to save his job at a new firm, decides to track down the culprit, who lives in Florida, and bring her back to Denver to clear his name. Only in a movie would a police detective sanction such a preposterous idea. So, with a wad of cash, Sandy flies down to Florida to confront the person who stole his life. Complications, as they do in movies of this sort, ensue, forcing Sandy and the woman, who calls herself Diana, to drive back to Denver. Along the way a bounty hunter pursues them, as do a couple of toughs from some imprisoned criminal big shot whom Diana once scammed.

What keeps Identity Thief from being totally derailed is McCarthy's slapstick and Bateman's short fused performances. McCarthy is a wonderful physical comedian who can elicit laughs just by running on a highway. Bateman has the thankless job of playing her straight man, a character he has in recent years developed quite nicely. And like all solid actors who are cast in such situations, he finds his comedic moments mostly in reaction to McCarthy's antics.

Where Identity Thief falters is in its last scenes, when it becomes sentimental as Diana attempts to explain herself and justify her lifestyle to Sandy. This blatant attempt to play on the audience's sympathies is disconcerting and unnecessary, and it undermines the comedic edge that had carried McCarthy's character throughout the movie. Identity Thief has some wild leaps in logic, but that is standard fare for a comedy of this type. (How and why Diana chose and found Sandy and why none of her other marks ever complained to the police are never touched upon). That, though, is a simple nitpick.

Overall, Identity Thief will hold your interest mostly because of the byplay between its two stars. They are your classic antagonist protagonists. They don't play off each other too smoothly because there is no real chemistry between them, but it works enough for this story. Director Seth Gordon, who directed the hilarious Horrible Bosses tried to strike comedy gold twice with this film, and falls a little short. Identity Thief, however, still offers enough laughs to keep you entertained throughout most of the entire film.

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