'Identity Thief' is episodic, road-movie fare
I don't know who owns the film rights to T.C. Boyle's 2006 identity-theft page-turner Talk Talk, but whoever they are, hopefully the cheesy, potty-mouthed slapstick riff on what is essentially the same story - the Jason Bateman/Melissa McCarthy screwball comedy Identity Thief - won't dissuade them from pursuing their project. Give it to Affleck. It'll be great.
But I digress.
In Identity Thief, Bateman is Sandy Patterson, a mild-mannered accountant for an investment firm run by a horrible boss (Jon Favreau). An inexcusable innocent, Sandy receives a call from a telemarketer and proceeds to turn over his vital info: birthdate, Social Security number, address.
The next thing he knows, the gas station cashier is cutting up his credit card. And not just one card has been declined - his whole wallet of plastic is maxed out. Extravagant bar tabs, mall stores, salons, jet skis - and the charges are all coming from Florida. Someone has his ID, his account numbers, his life.
And that someone is Melissa McCarthy, the plus-size, pugnacious costar of Bridesmaids and This Is 40. Her real name is Diana, but she has a portfolio of aliases and appropriated credit lines that enable her to lead a life of rampant consumerism. She's a shopaholic tornado leaving a slew of unsuspecting victims in her path.
But this victim, played by Bateman, decides he's going to play Batman instead. With his job in jeopardy, and the cops knocking at his door, he leaves his pregnant wife (Amanda Peet) and two young girls in Denver and heads for the Sunshine State. McCarthy, proving she can carry a movie (even if it's flimsy), delivers punchlines and punches to the esophagus as Bateman's Sandy Patterson pursues her, tussles with her, and then forces her to come back to Denver to clear his name, and his credit rating.
Seth Gordon, who performed similar duties (with Bateman as one of his leads) in the workplace revenge fantasy farce Horrible Bosses, directs Identity Thief in efficient, if not particularly imaginative fashion. It's episodic, road-movie stuff, with a pile-up of supporting players - Robert Patrick as a skiptracer on Diana's tail, Genesis Rodriguez and T.I. as a pair of assassins, and Eric Stonestreet as Big Chuck, a guy who walks into a bar and is smitten by what he sees in Diana. An unpretty assignation ensues.
In some ways, Identity Thief is a raunchier variation on another recent odd-couple road pic: Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen as overbearing mom and nebbish son in The Guilt Trip. The two movies' respective rental car occupants cover a lot of the same turf, geographically and thematically, as they learn, with increasing sappiness, what makes each other tick.
But if nothing else, Identity Thief confirms McCarthy's identity in the Hollywood hierarchy: She's a big, ballsy star.