Gullible father of two Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Jason Bateman), answers a cold call solicitation to add a protection plan to his credit card and soon learns his identity has been stolen by a Florida woman (Melissa McCarthy). Rapidly, the woman has run up debts of tens of thousands of dollars under the name of Sandy Bigelow Patterson and wacky hijinks ensue. Or at least they are supposed to. Identity Thief is a cruel, mean-spirited, and contemptible embarrassment of a movie, lacking any funny moments and wasting the comedic stylings of Bateman and McCarthy, who have truly committed to selling this garbage to unsuspecting movie audiences.
There is nothing original or necessary in this excruciatingly long endeavor and Identity Thief wears out its welcome merely moments after it begins. Bateman’s Sandy is an accountant with a hugely successful Denver financial brokerage firm, tasked with handling millions and millions of dollars in assets, and without hesitation passes over all the information necessary for McCarthy’s Diana to go on her spending spree. As illogical as that premise is, we are then forced to laugh at McCarthy’s appearance, her color blast wardrobe and accessories, and egregiously ill-fitting personality. Clearly disturbed from the get-go, Diana buys multiple rounds for a community bar and gets arrested on a drunk-and-disorderly charge, all actions which we are supposed to laugh at. Later, Diana takes her crazy wardrobe into high-priced beauty salons and department stores and the workers at these facilities titter and giggle at the amazement that a woman…who looks like that…could have all this money!
Are you laughing yet? Feeling a little uncomfortable? We are about 10 minutes in at this point.
When Sandy runs his fuel tank down to the last possible drop, he learns of his situation at the gas station when the attendant is instructed to cut his credit card. Then a convoluted series of events take place which lead to co-workers banding together to break out and start their own firm while offering to pay Sandy five times his salary, the police arresting Sandy because Diana missed her court date (she used his name when arrested), and eventually, Sandy convincing his new boss and the Denver PD that he will go to Florida, bring Diana back to Colorado and get her to admit everything. Yep.
And so…as illogical and ridiculous as the entire premise of Identity Thief is, the suckers in the audience are left to hope that once things get off the ground and Bateman gets to Florida and finds McCarthy, things will start to become entertaining. Craig Mazin’s screenplay only gets more vile and nasty. Two of the most inept assassins I have ever seen on screen (rapper T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez) work for some grumpy old man in red prison garb who orders them to kill Diana on sight. Why? Something about a badly burned fake credit card is shouted out at some point. Then a skip tracer (Robert Patrick) arrives to collect Diana and $40,000, and if he happens to torch an innocent woman’s hair salon or shoot up a bunch of innocent bystanders, well so be it.
As flat and dismal as the first half of the film is, it only gets more disgraceful and insulting when Sandy and Diana start to bond somewhat and we are asked…well, forced to infuse empathy and compassion for these characters. This naturally comes after Sandy sells out and does something as low as Diana does, then suits up and shares expensive champagne after Diana gets a stunning makeover. When he compliments her for helping him learn about himself and find his confidence again, I nearly threw up in my mouth. When Diana tearfully shares a story about tough times in her life, I wanted to pull a fire alarm to make the entire experience come to an end.
I despise movies that are this empty-headed, not because I am some highbrow film critic who only likes those artsy kind of movies, but because I don’t like people treating me like I’m stupid. Movies can be mediocre, miss the mark, be bad, be great, but when a film carries this much disdain for its audience, I cannot help but recoil from everything it is giving me. Common sense is not required for a film like Identity Thief to succeed, but having realistic interactions, decisions, and something viewers can relate to is a must. Identity Thief offers nothing redemptive in this regard. The film just sits there and mocks us as it plays for laughs.
Then when you start adding in violence, anti-gay humor, and Sandy’s wife (Amanda Peet), who never questions any of this for one moment, then accepts Diana into her home and allows her to be around her children, I have to wonder if Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy were victims of some bait-and-switch. I respect these two actors far too much to believe that this script, these plot points, were there the whole time. I want to believe they are better than this. However, Identity Thief makes me wonder if they can even tell when enough is enough.