'Identity Thief': What the Critics Are Saying

3:47 PM PST 02/08/2013 by Jessica Toomer

Melissa McCarthy's comedic road trip with Jason Bateman fails to steal laughs on the big screen, critics say.

Melissa McCarthy's new film pairs the funny woman with fellow comedian Jason Bateman as the two embark on a road trip after meeting under less than conventional circumstances. Identity Thief is the story of Bateman's Sandy Patterson, a man whose mid-life crisis involves discovering that his identity has been stolen by McCarthy's Diana, a woman with a skewed moral compass and bright-blue eye shadow. The real Sandy Patterson tracks down his criminal counterpart, and the duo head cross-country to save one from losing his job and the other from serving serious jail time.

Despite the film's promising comedic talent, Identity Thief failed to deliver the laughs, according to recent reviews. The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy says, "There may be some hidden Hollywood moral behind the display of bad behavior in the screenplay by Craig Mazin, advancing the notion that average people will accept all manner of abuse from stronger, more assertive people (i.e., executives, producers) as long as you throw them a crumb at the end of the day. On the other hand, there may be no intent here other than to show what a truly amoral, anti-social person is capable of."

Here's what other critics are saying of the film:

THR's Todd McCarthy:

"McCarthy has dominated in everything she's ever been in and it's true in spades here, as she's up against no other substantial comic performers; it's just that Diana requires her to be so assaultive that she becomes too, too much. Bateman does his job as the continuously put-upon straight man, but he can only react to the hurricane from the South. Everyone else delivers what's required in one-dimensional support."

The New York Times' Manohla Dargis:

"Identity Thief, a lazy comedy about a naughty woman and the uptight man she has her way with, has no business being funny. The story turns on a thief who sometimes goes by Diana (Melissa McCarthy) who wreaks havoc on a milquetoast, Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) by stealing his credit cards and more. The two become one of those belligerent odd couples who are forced on the road together chockablock with stereotypes, gun violence, visual cliches and cruel comedy. Diana, a kewpie doll with a crazy smile and five-alarm blaze of hair, is the target of most of the jokes, but until the filmmakers put out her fire with a bucket of tears and sentimental slop, she’s also the movie’s bliss."

The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips:

"Director Seth Gordon made Horrible Bosses, which was actually cruder than this movie, though quite funny and nicely plotted. This time, Gordon is lost, and his style of shooting --  telescopic close-ups, which never give us enough space to appreciate the performers -- feels wrong for comedy. By the time McCarthy punches somebody in the throat for the fifth time, and the inevitable Taser sight gag gets recycled, Identity Thief has challenged the best abilities of everybody on-screen, including Eric Stonestreet, Cam on Modern Family, as a barfly on the make. Crud has a way of doing that."

Vulture's Bilge Ebiri:

"Identity Thief is funny enough, but it needed to be darker, raunchier, and crazier to live up to the promise of its casting. Melissa McCarthy’s awesomely nasty life-force transformed Bridesmaids, and while Jason Bateman has been coasting on straight-man roles for a while now, he can elevate his game to the surrealism of his milieu when presented with the right material (Arrested Development, Extract). Both actors have wild streaks a mile wide, but alas, Seth Gordon’s comedy is content to deliver just a few yuks on its way to a surprisingly earnest and bland payoff."

The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey:

"Identity Thief is a larcenous bit of funny business. It probably should be locked up for its crimes and misdemeanors against moviemaking. But its stars, Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, steal so many laughs from such improbable places that the bumps in this revenge/road trip farce can be mostly forgiven, though not forgotten. Directed by Seth Gordon, the film has the same R-rated tenor of his relatively horrible Horrible Bosses and his really dreary Four Christmases. More problematic, it has the same difficulty with the connective tissue -- anything but the really funny stuff sags or is superfluous."

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