MRR Review: "Identity Thief"

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Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy star in the lead roles of this crime-themed comedy film directed by Seth Gordon.
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MRR Review: "Identity Thief"

-- Rating: R
Length: 112 minutes
Release Date: February 8, 2013
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Genre: Comedy

What happens when a studio mixes two comedy superstars with a great director and a well-written script? If the studio has any luck, the end result will be a film as funny as "Identify Thief." Despite some poor reviews from critics who saw the early screening, the film topped the box office on opening weekend and made back its initial budget.

Identity theft is a serious problem that causes millions of dollars' worth of damage every year, but those willing to suspend belief for a few hours will find that "Identity Thief" is an entertaining film. Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman, "Arrested Development") is the type of by the books guy that almost everyone has at their own office. After learning that his bosses don't intend to offer him a promotion, he decides to take a risk and launch a new business with a few co-workers.

Any hope that his has for future happiness is gone when he learns that someone stole his identity. Patterson learns the news while standing at a gas station and trying to pump gas, which will make a few viewers laugh. The person behind the theft is professional con artist Diana (Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"). Not only does she nearly manage to bankrupt him, but by stealing his identity, she also ruins his chances at launching his new company. Instead of waiting for help from the police, Patterson jumps in his car and heads off on a quest to find Diana and bring her back himself.

"Identity Thief" reunites Bateman with director Seth Gordon, who he worked with on the comedic hit "Horrible Bosses." Gordon knows just when to force his actors to follow the script and when to let them run wild, and the moments where the duo improvises are some of the best moments in the film. The script is sometimes a little too predictable, but letting Bateman and McCarthy off the leash results in some of the funniest moments from recent years.

The real highlight of the film is McCarthy, who plays the wild and crazy character in the film. Diana doesn't view any of her actions as wrong because she does what she thinks is best for her. Those who saw McCarthy in her Oscar-nominated role in "Bridesmaids" will know exactly what to expect from this film. Not only does she get some of the best lines, but she also manages to steal the film away from Bateman.

Bateman is a strong comedic actor, but in recent years, he's found himself playing the straight man. In "The Change-Up," he was the man stuck at home with a wife and kids, while his best friend lived the life of a wild and crazy single man. He played similar versions of that same character in "Extract," "Horrible Bosses," and even "Arrested Development." Some viewers might find themselves wishing that he could just let loose a little more and get away from playing the straight man. There are moments in the film where Bateman seems like just another supporting actor with McCarthy acting circles around him.

The supporting cast's performance in "Identity Thief" is just as strong as that of the main actors. Amanda Peet ("The Whole Nine Yards") pops up as Patterson's long-suffering wife. She is the one who encourages him to wait for the police, but her role sometimes comes across as a throwaway. Peet is a great comedic actress, but she barely has any scenes in this film. John Favreau ("Swingers"), Eris Stonestreet ("Modern Family"), and Robert Patrick ("Gangster Squad") are a few other great actors who appear in the film, though viewers will wish that they had more of a chance to shine.

The main misstep that "Identity Thief" makes is the introduction of Julian (T.I., "Takers") and Marisol (Genesis Rodriguez, "The Last Stand"). The two play gangsters who chase down Diana because of something she did in the past. If the scenes between the two were a little lighter, it would help the film. The director instead decides to use the two as a dramatic element. Every time they come onscreen, it feels forced and like a different film. It almost seems as if the director wanted to make a traditional crime drama, but got stuck working on a comedy.

Those scenes do little to add to the film, but viewers might find themselves not caring. As soon as the film jumps back to the scenes between McCarthy and Bateman, viewers will likely forget about Rodriguez and T.I. McCarthy and Bateman manage to play off each other in entertaining ways, and while McCarthy is the star, Bateman does get a few good lines. "Identity Thief" took over the top spot at the box office on its opening weekend, showing that these two names are funny enough to draw a crowd.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars