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'Identity Thief' a false attempt at amusement

11:33 AM, Feb. 7, 2013
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Melissa McCarthty and Eric Stonestreet appear in a scene from the motion picture 'Identity Thief.' (Gannett, Bob Mahoney/Universal Pictures/File) / GANNETT
Tip 'T.I.' Harris, left, and Genesis Rodriguez appear in a scene from the motion picture 'Identity Thief.' (Gannett, Bob Mahoney/Universal Pictures/File) / GANNETT

‘Identity Thief’

Rated: R for sexual content and language.
Star rating:★½

Melissa McCarthty and Jason Bateman are odd-couple travel buddies in the movie 'Identity Thief.' / GANNETT
Robert Patrick appears in a scene from the motion picture 'Identity Thief.' (Gannett/Universal Pictures/File) / GANNETT

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Melissa McCarthy deserves better than a guitar to the face. She deserves better than getting hit by a car. She deserves better than puke gags and fat jokes. And she definitely deserves better than having her considerable comedic chops squandered in a movie as lazily slapped together as “Identity Thief.”

Jason Bateman also deserves better than Sandy Patterson, a family man whose identity he discovers has been stolen when arrest warrants start closing in on him. The timing couldn’t be worse, as his wife (Amanda Peet) is pregnant with their third child and he’s just starting out in a high-profile position at a new job.

Of course, if everyone were rational and chill about the situation, we’d never get a scene where a CGI snake wraps itself around a pantsless Bateman’s neck. So instead, the police kvetch that their hands are tied by state lines (he’s in Colorado, the monkey business is in Florida) and Patterson’s boss frets that their clients will be spooked and he might have to fire him.

Somehow, all of these adults with degrees and jobs and families and a handful of brain cells to rub together come to the conclusion that the wisest course of action is for Patterson to personally travel to Florida and drag his identity thief back to Colorado. So Patterson kisses his far-too-understanding wife goodbye and sets off to find the impostor Sandy Patterson and haul her back to explain things to his boss and the local authorities.

Who he finds is Diana (McCarthy), a sociopathic, hedonistic, throat-punching goblin woman with a houseful of illicitly obtained goods and a wallet full of credit cards with his name on them. What follows is part odd-couple road-trip comedy, part heist flick, part feel-good drama, all jammed uncomfortably together like puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit.

And at nearly two hours, it becomes clear just how hard a time the scriptwriters had finding their way. Why is a grizzled old dude chasing after them in a van and trying to kidnap Diana? Why does rapper T.I. keep showing up with a gun and miserable line delivery? Why on earth does McCarthy keep singing the verse “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard”?

Why won’t this just end already?

The film’s few chuckles can be chalked up to the sheer comedic charisma of McCarthy and Bateman. McCarthy proves herself an adept physical actress, handling slapstick pratfalls like a long-lost Stooge, while Bateman further hones his frazzled type-A shtick. Both elevate the lowly material through expert delivery, but not enough to make this movie work.

Everyone would have been better off if the editors had just cobbled together a 90-minute blooper reel and called it a day.

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