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Identity Thief review: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy find no laughs

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Director: Seth Gordon; Screenwriter: Craig Mazin; Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, John Cho, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Robert Patrick; Running time: 111 mins; Certificate: 15


Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy in a road comedy that channels Planes, Trains & Automobiles? Sounds bullet-proof on paper, but there's barely a laugh to be found in this new comedy from Horrible Bosses director Seth Gordon, which arrives on UK shores with a mightily impressive $100 million-plus US box office haul under its belt. Comedy is perhaps the film genre that's the most subjective, but it's baffling to think that Identity Thief is somehow one of the highest-grossing films of the year so far.

The story centres on Bateman's down-on-his-luck accountant Sandy Patterson as he falls victim to Miami fraudster Diana. When she hijacks his identity and puts his career in jeopardy, he sets out on a cross-country trip to bring her to the police and save his own skin. Naturally, Sandy and Diana are an instant mismatch - Bateman is all buttoned-down beta male, while McCarthy is lewd, crude and ruthlessly manipulative.

They encounter two enforcers (TI, Genesis Rodriguez) out to catch Diana, a relentless T-1000 bounty hunter played by Robert Patrick, poisonous rattlesnakes and a randy rodeo widower in their trek to Denver. The Hangover Part II co-writer Craig Mazin's script lumbers along from one set piece to the next, taking in car crashes and brutal physical fights between its two leads.

Identity Thief, Melissa McCarthy


Just as John Hughes's Planes, Trains & Automobiles sought to peel back the cheerily grating facade of John Candy's Del Griffith, so too does Identity Thief paint its brash co-lead in a new light. In truth, it's this aspect of the film that's its only major strength.

Bateman's Sandy acts as audience surrogate, despairing at Diana and her lack of regard for others. Gradually, though, he and we get to see a more endearing side to Diana, and it's to McCarthy's credit that she's able to transition her character from foe to friend of Sandy's.

Identity Thief pretty much extinguishes all the goodwill generated from Bateman and McCarthy, though, thanks to a cliché-packed storyline that leans heavily on coincidence and the stupidity of several supporting characters. Straining credibility wouldn't be a problem if there was much wit or originality on show, but the film pales in comparison to other road trip comedy classics such as Planes, Trains and Midnight Run.

This all feels like it's been quickly (and shoddily) slapped together to capitalise on the post-Bridesmaids popularity of McCarthy. She deserves much better than this, but worryingly, the threat of an Identity Thief 2 seems all too real.

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