Some plot devices have staying power, but one may argue that the "odd couple" is the 'one size fits all' generic Hollywood go to. From Martin and Lewis’ Sailor Beware; Lemmon and Mattheau’s titular The Odd Couple or Grumpy Old Men; or Martin and Candy’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles it works. That is until Identity Thief molested the idea beyond recognition. Family man and banker Sandy (Jason Bateman) becomes the victim of identity theft by a sociopathic, ‘impulse shopper' Diana nee Sandy (Melissa McCarthy). In a rejection of modern criminal justice, and financial institutions sophisticated fraud detection technologies, Sandy must travel across country to retrieve the criminal and transport her to the feet of the inept police. Identity Thief is strange and laborious. It's as if the filmmakers started with the Planes, Trains and Automobiles proven structure and infused it with more ridiculous and implausible obstacles. In a world with the sophistication of law enforcement technology seen in films like the Bourne Series, you have to force the characters to hog tie recent technological advancement. In the wake of admitted law enforcement ineptitude (divulged through exposition of bureaucratic nonsense) the mission to get McCarthy’s character reaches all levels of ludicrous when somehow she’s also slighted an imprisoned criminal kingpin who dispatches a team of assassins and a psychotic bail-bondsmen (Robert "T1000" Patrick) to square up her debts with her life. In the following pursuit the characters are subjected to car accidents, snake bites, beatings and with Looney Tunes level of durability they're barely scratched.
Bateman's frustrated spend thrift is a charming ideal father just getting ahead in the treacherous waters of post GFC banking. His character is loaded with a realistic 'struggle,' that immediately collides with the utterly outrageous world of Diana/Sandy. Her introduction involves using other people’s money to feed a consumerist addiction. And the consumption isn't just stuff, there's a bar scene that (had to) ends with projectile vomiting on a cop. McCarthy's been typecast as the female equivalent to Zack Galifianakis or John Candy but in yet another puzzling turn Diana reveals a past without a family. It’s clearly a failed attempt to give this deranged criminal a ‘heart of gold.’ You wish the film-makers were sitting at a panel to ask "how are we meant to respond to this, after seeing her vomit on a cop, get screwed in every conceivable position and STEAL THIS OTHER CHARACTER'S LIFE TO BUY SEVEN BLENDERS?!"
Identity Thief is a film that has two distinctly transcendent moments: 1. McCarthy's character being hit in the face with a guitar and 2. She's hit by a speeding car and sent floating unceremoniously through the air. For those fleeting seconds, the characters were in the same pain as the audience.
1/2 a star
Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.