Film review: Identity Thief (15)

THE film Bridesmaids made Melissa Mc­Carthy a star like no other. While the ­other Bridesmaids whined, fretted and jostled, only McCarthy was secure, happy and sexually confident.

Identity Thief (15)

Director: Seth Gordon

Running time: 111 minutes

Star rating: * *

It was a step forward to see a big, talented comedienne who wasn’t being undermined by the usual stereotypes.

Identity Thief rather crushes that concept. Apparently McCarthy isn’t the first of her kind after all, because this film has decided she’s the new John Candy. And in Seth Gordon’s hit and miss comedy, it’s clear as soon as meek mid-level accounts manager Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) sets out to kidnap and cart McCarthy across America so she can confess to purloining his good name and maxing out his credit cards, that this is Planes, Trains And Automobiles with a criminal record.


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If Bateman succeeds, then he can hang on to his new job, but McCarthy only agrees to come quietly to escape a couple of vengeful gangsters (Genesis Rodriguez and rapper T.I.) – and since she is an expert lock-picker, throat-puncher and con-woman, the most surprising thing is that she sticks with Bateman for so long. This is the fault of screenwriter Craig Mazin (Scary Movie 3 and 4, The Hangover Parts II and III) whose scenarios are unconvincing but, worse, only sporadically amusing. The film’s best moments are when McCarthy is left to her own improvisational devices with the camera still running, and that doesn’t happen often enough.

And there must have been a discount offer for movie villains because almost everybody else in the picture seems to be against Bateman and McCarthy. Besides the two gangsters, Bateman has a boss (Jon Favreau) who hogs the credit for his work. McCarthy keeps meeting people who sneer at her weight, age and looks. And on the road they are pursued by a bail bondsman who has Terminator-style tenacity – which is unsurprising, given that he’s played by Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick.

In between the hilarity of a sex scene involving two fat people, puke jokes, and Bateman having to walk around without his trousers, it turns out that McCarthy’s Diana is supposed to be a poignant character, a friendless orphan who fills up the emotional hole in her life with money, make-up, blenders and Jet Skis that she doesn’t need.

When McCarthy gets a ­Pretty Woman makeover and turns up for dinner in a black dress and tamed hair, I swear you can hear a crackle. It’s not sexual tension – McCarthy is John Candy, remember – but it might have been a burning copy of The Feminine Mystique. There’s even less for Bateman to do here except stand and absorb the blows and the punchlines – but unlike the friendless fatty, at least he has two kids and a nice wife, played by Amanda Peet with the haunting quality of boiled white rice. «

Siobhan Synnot

On general release from Friday