By Laurie Coker
I do not like stupid, trashy comedy. I do, however enjoy intelligent, tasteless humor. Identity Thief, starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, unfortunately, lacks intelligent, and frankly, even these exceptional comedic actors can’t save a tired road trip tale. With only the occasional laugh, and I mean OCCASIONAL, director Seth Gordon, can do little to make anything but a mess of screenwriter, Steve Conrad’s ridiculous script.
McCarthy, plays “Diana” (and several other identities), a woman, who with a single phone call and a couple of fancy machines, steals Sandy’s (Bateman) identity. Because his name is asexual (a joke that is hard beaten in the film), it is as easy for the gifted con to create credit cards and IDs. When the police (who think he is the criminal) basically refuse to help him, Sandy, husband and father of two adorable girls with a baby on the way, takes to the road, traveling from Colorado to Florida, to find Diana and bring her justice. With a sort of Hangover feel, but none of the smart humor, Identity Thief has Sandy and Diane on a wild, completely absurd journey, most of which is too disgusting or stupid to delve into here.
Bateman, who often hits, but does miss in his character and film choices, has the film’s funniest lines. And in spite of myself, I did chuckle some. My guest, who likes this sort of trash, laughed and laughed, but I did not. McCarthy, who has a wonderful sense of comic timing in a droll, sometimes deadpan way, comes across more pathetic than funny in this. She is perhaps one of the funniest comedic actress to emerge in sometime and with films like Bridesmaids and her award winning television show Mike and Molly, I am sure her dance card is full, but Identity Thief, as me wondering about her agent’s good sense and her propensity to go just a tad too far on the nasty side of humor.
The film earns its R rating well – with disgusting sexual situations and plenty of foul language. And I think this bothers me most. I see no need to go so far into nastiness for a laugh. I suppose Conrad is clever in choosing a hot topic like identity theft for his story, but something so prominent and frankly, serious, even in a comedy, warrants a peek at the more serious side of the issue. Making Sandy’s plight one perhaps more suited to drama. Thus Identity Thief finds itself floundering under the weight of drama amidst lukewarm humor. Yes, Bateman and McCarthy play well together and as noted earlier, the film offers a few sparks of humor, but nothing takes flame.
The story itself, a road trip, buddy film of sorts, has holes large enough for McCarthy to fall through, carry Bateman and the Fiat she buys using his credit card accounts behind her and what tiny semblance of truth or realism there is lends itself more to drama than comedy. I can’t place more than a D- in my grade book, and without these actors, the grade would be lower.