There is nothing funny about identity theft. The nefarious practice of pretending to be someone else for profit has exploded in the Internet era and ruined many lives. But if the adage tragedy plus time equals humor is true, then perhaps it’s time for an R-rated comedy about a man who finds himself saddled with a stranger’s debt to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.
After struggling midlevel executive Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) foolishly divulges his credit card information over the phone to Diana (Melissa McCarthy) she steals his identity and quickly racks up five-digit debt on his cards. When the cops in his home state of Colorado inform him they can’t do anything unless she comes Denver, he goes to Florida, finds her and vows to drive her back, across country, to justice.
There is suspension of disbelief. Then there’s stretching the limits of believability. And then there is whatever you need to fully cope with the outlandish plot of “Identity Thief.” I don’t demand that my movies make perfect sense. Far from it. If I’m into the story I can overlook some leaps in logic. But the plot twists here simply don’t work. For one thing, I guess simply cancelling the stolen credit cards lacks comedic possibilities, but it would have been the right thing to do and would have spared us this mostly unfunny “comedy.”
If you struggle past the ludicrous situations, the unisex jokes—almost every single character comments on how Sandy sounds like a girl’s name–the unnecessary subplot about two hired killers (T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez) hot on the tail of our fugitives and the desperately underused comedic stylings of the usually hilarious Eric Stonestreet and John Cho, you’re left with a stitched together series of events that happen not because they work as a story, but because they set up situations in which stars Batman and McCarthy can do their thing.
McCarthy’s timing is perfect. Over dinner when she’s asked, “Do you know what a sociopath is?” She replies, “Do they like ribs?” Not a great gag but her timing sells it. Imagine what she might have done with actual jokes. Ditto Bateman.
Like “Due Date,” another recent ill-fated road movie with a likable cast—Robert Downey Jr and Zach Galifianakis—“Identity Thief” is another road comedy flatter than a long stretch of highway.