IDENTITY THIEF. Starring Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, Jon Favreau, Robert Patrick and , John Cho. Directed by Seth Gordon. Rated MA 15+ (Strong sexual references and coarse language). 111 minutes.
This review comes with a caution: if you are male and your name is Sandy, be prepared for lots jokes at the expense of Sandy being either a man’s name or a woman’s name, even after the final credits.
This is another of those American comedies, so popular in recent years, which begin raucously and end up rather sweetly and morally, something which the screenplay in the first half or more would not necessarily encourage you to believe that it could happen. It is directed by Seth Gordon, whose previous film (similar in tone and humour) was Horrible Bosses. Jason Bateman was one of the stars, put-upon by his horrible boss, Kevin Spacey. Now, he takes up a similar kind of character whose horrible boss is Jon Favreau.
But that encounter may be one of the least of his worries. When his credit card is refused at a service station and cut in half, matters begin to crumble for him. Someone is using his cards and identity in Florida. He is far away in Colorado; his wife is pregnant with their third child; he has just taken a job risk to combine with bankers who have found the boss so horrible that they are walking out to set up another company; and, then, the police say they can do very little because of jurisdictions; then it gets worse when his arrested and charged with missing a parole hearing.
We, of course, are in the know. We have seen Diana (Melissa McCarthy) forging his cards and going on drinking sprees, shopping sprees, beauty parlour sprees. She is not a nice lady.
This is a road trip comedy because Sandy goes to Florida to bring back his identity thief to establish his innocence. On the way there are all kinds of mix-ups, including drug-dealer assassins as well as a local bail bondsman in pursuit. There is a lot of slapstick comedy with the odd couple, the buttoned-up Sandy on his mission and the extroverted, garrulous and scruple-less Diana clashing and clashing. There are chases and car-crashes, snakes in the woods, as well as some more credit card fraud on the way home. There are also some quite raunchy sequences and rude jokes.
Many audiences have found the plot too haphazard and unbelievable. It is and strains credibility and, with plot-holes galore, strains plausibility (detectives and their inability to help, assassins and their boss in prison, the bounty hunter chase, getting away with it all). But, it’s not that kind of comedy. Leave plausibility behind and accept what is offered!
Jason Bateman is very good at and convincing in this kind of long-suffering role. Melissa McCarthy uses here big frame and bumptious personality - to be big and bumptious. The Jud Appatow Syndrome is relevant again. As in his comedies and those like them, the beginning is more than a touch chaotic and redemption doesn’t seem to be on offer. But, by the end of the film, there it is, American hopeful style. It’s lightly amusing escapist fare.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out April 3 2013.