Friday, Apr 18, 2014 09:09 am est

Comedic performances compensate for mediocre plot in “Identity Thief”

Posted on February 7, 2013 | by Gus Constantellis

Judging by the trailer for “Identity Thief,” the new comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, the film looked like it would epitomize the hit-or-miss film. It could either be a disaster starring two otherwise excellent actors, or it could be a surprise hit, reaffirming our trust in McCarthy and Bateman. In reality, “Identity Thief” falls somewhere in the range of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s “Baby Mama” — not a catastrophe, but not quite classic in the vein of “Bridesmaids” or “The Hangover.” Despite being mediocre cinema, the film is certainly entertaining.

“Identity Thief’s” plot is simple — McCarthy plays Diana, a stealthy identity thief who steals the persona of Sandy Patterson, played by Bateman. The film follows the duo’s tumultuous road trip to Denver in Patterson’s attempt to clear his name. The unlikely pair hit many speed bumps along the way including gangs, snakes and other dangers. It is all lighthearted fun, but do not watch “Identity Thief” expecting a well-thought-out plot.

The film does a terrific job of displaying the best of McCarthy and Bateman’s comedic talents. Many of McCarthy’s hilariously bizarre monologues like the ones in “Bridesmaids” are used here, including a particularly memorable scene in which Diana compares her body to the Bermuda Triangle. Bateman uses deadpan humor, including many great one-liners spoken under his breath, in the spirit of his “Arrested Development” character. The two stars are so delightful to watch that they make up for many of the film’s weaknesses. Nobody can argue that a scene featuring McCarthy singing along to Kelis’ “Milkshake” isn’t comedic gold.

Several television actors make appearances in the film, including Amanda Peet, Morris Chestnut and John Cho. “Modern Family’s” Eric Stonestreet, who plays a rich Southern widower in search of love, is responsible for some of the film’s best scenes. Seeing Stonestreet tease Bateman’s character with a belt while completely disrobing is well worth the price of the ticket.

Unfortunately, character actor Robert Patrick — recently featured in Ruben Fleischer’s “Gangster Squad” — disappoints in a subplot that falls flat, playing a bounty hunter who is not given much to do. His character is not very funny and fits poorly into the rest of the movie.

“Identity Thief” cannot compare to “Bridesmaids,” but at the very least it is a vast improvement over similar failed comedies such as “The Guilt Trip” and “Date Night.” Audiences must be prepared to abandon any expectations of plot, and enjoy the film as a showcase of McCarthy and Bateman’s talents. If that is enough for you, then “Identity Thief” will be a treat.

Gus Constantellis is a contributing writer. Email him at film@nyunews.com.

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Tatiana Baez

Assistant Managing Editor | A CAS junior, Tatiana is studying journalism, environmental science and politics. She’s a bomb editor, as well as the staff’s main source of entertainment because she sings along to every song after 12 a.m. She also writes about culture, science, technology and sex, and her work has been featured in VICE, Motherboard, Elite Daily, amNewYork and others. She enjoys eating Thai food, reading fiction and binge-watching Netflix.

And in case you were wondering how great she really is — “I just can’t get enough of Tatiana” is a direct quote from her EIC at WSN only moments ago.

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Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.

 

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Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

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