Misanthrophy masquerading as criminal mischief.
DIRECTED BY SETH GORDON
In its odd-couple pairing of a plus-sized chatterbox (Melissa McCarthy) and an uptight working stiff (Jason Bateman) for an impromptu cross-country commute, Identity Thief is a lot like John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Except that where Hughes’ much-beloved buddy comedy exemplified its director’s gifts for blending humour and humanism, Identity Thief is a nasty piece of work, as mindless and as mean-spirited as it is lacking in laughs.
The setup—an absurd pile-on of cruel contrivances—is credit-card fraud as it might have been imagined by Kafka: After Bateman’s milquetoast family man is bilked by McCarthy’s free-spending, bail-jumping sociopath, his boss threatens to fire him unless he can beat the rap for the string of felonies and sizable debt she’s brazenly accumulated on his behalf. Citing jurisdictional red tape, the local cops refuse to track her down, leaving it up to Bateman to venture from Denver to Florida and back again in order to clear his name.
What follows is a miserable parade of ill-conceived “gags,” in which Bateman’s undeserved suffering and McCarthy’s body shape supply the principal punch lines. (In addition to being an amoral conwoman, McCarthy is also an incorrigible flirt—something screenwriter Craig Mazin clearly feels is inherently funny, because, as a fat person, she ought to know better than to flaunt her sexuality.) Don’t let the light-hearted guise fool you; Identity Thief is as loathsome a film as you’re likely to see all year.