Craig Mazin’s co-writer credits include The Hangover Parts II and III, and Scary Movie 4 and 5. With this knowledge, a sense of foreboding is completely justified going into Identify Thief; a road movie starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman and written solely by Mazin. Bateman plays buttoned down accountant Sandy Patterson, who becomes a victim of McCarthy’s con artist, Diana. After she has a wild weekend on his credit card details, Bateman finds himself under suspicion for drug smuggling and assault. To clear his name he hits the road to track down McCarthy and get her to own up to her misdemeanours.
Let’s start off saying this. It’s a good thing that Arrested Development season 4 has finally come to fruition, because at least for now, there’s no danger of Identity Thief 2 ever arising. You know how the best bits are usually in a trailer? This is equally true of Identity Thief. And those bits are all in the first act. In hindsight, there’s a reason why they didn’t take anything from the rest of the film.
Identity Thief is another one of those comedies that have been coming out over the last 12 months where apparently a run time of just less than two hours is okay. Apatow we are looking at you! This is your fault. Maybe a two hour comedy can be justified if it’s consistently funny, but Identify Thief is not that film. It produced, at best, two gut laughs and both of those were clearly adlibs, so you can’t even praise the script for them. We know Bateman and McCarthy are capable of much better but the material lets them down. Identify Thief seems to try and get a lot of mileage out of using a loud scream as a setup, joke and punchline. Anyone who has seen Tom Green’s slacker comedy, Freddy Got Fingered, knows that this isn’t a solid foundation for comedy. This kind of loudness is only reserved for children’s Saturday morning cartoons and riots.
The film does take time out to add a bit of heart amongst the vomiting and vagina jokes. However, like the aforementioned screaming, it happens so often that it just grates. A ‘jokey’ sex scene is bookended with both characters crying about what they want from life. It’s just uncomfortable. You’d have to be watching another film entirely not to realise within the first five minutes of meeting McCarthy that her Diana is just a misunderstood loner. But by Christ, the film is going to make sure you really get it with numerous scenes of her looking off camera or gazing at her navel, reminiscing about some deprived childhood.
Adding insult to injury is not just the B-Plot (gangsters are after Diana) or the C-plot (a bounty hunter is after her as well) or the D-plot (get revenge on mean boss), but the other sub-plots that pop up like whack a mole. There is no restraint. The film flails around wildly like a child given control of a golf cart. How this got past the editors unscathed is beyond us.
With an internal logic that makes no sense (the police know he’s a victim of identity theft, but come back to arrest him on charges they’ve just proven he couldn’t have done), a ridiculous running time and a script that is the equivalent of a fart in a jar, Identify Thief may well be one of the worse comedies this year.