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edge staff writer


Identity Thief' an identity crisis

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McCarthy vehicle struggles to find fun

Since Melissa McCarthy broke out with her supporting role in 'Bridesmaids,' it seems like Hollywood has been trying to figure out what to do with her. Her television bona fides are set she's an Emmy winner for 'Mike and Molly' but movie stardom is a different animal. Pairing her with a talented foil to her brand of broad physicality someone like Jason Bateman and letting her loose probably seemed like a good idea. And maybe it was.

Unfortunately, the end result this time was 'Identity Thief,' a film struggling to understand its own identity.

Bateman (TV's 'Arrested Development') plays Sandy Patterson, an accountant working for a large financial firm. Sandy is very good at his job, although his egotistical boss (Jon Favreau, 'People Like Us') doesn't seem to care. He's got a lovely wife (Amanda Peet, 'Gulliver's Travels') and two cute kids. He's also got an offer to join some of his co-workers in a brand-new business venture.

However, it soon starts to all fall apart. Sandy is targeted by an identity thief (Melissa McCarthy, 'This is 40') who starts running up credit card bills and emptying his bank account. Sandy finds himself arrested, accused of crimes he didn't commit. His prospects are ruined and he's about to lose his job due to the disastrous damage to his finances.

When told there's nothing the police can do, Sandy finds himself with one week to track down the thief (named Diana) and bring her back to Colorado so that justice can be served and he can keep his job and protect his family. Only it turns out that he's not the only one with a bone to pick with Diana, and the others might not be as inclined toward doing things the easy way.

Given that this is a comedy, it all goes about as well as you might expect.

'Identity Thief' is clearly intended as a starring vehicle for McCarthy (though Bateman gets top billing). She has proven time and again to be a fearlessly gifted physical comedian and this film is no different. Unfortunately, her usual abrasiveness gets pushed a bit too far into the realm of the unlikeable for much of this movie. Bateman is one of the best straight-men in Hollywood today; no one plays put-upon quite like him. But here too, there's an absence there's no spark. The pair dutifully goes through the motions and there are some funny moments but most of our time is spent awash in predictability and road movie clichs.

There's some talent in the supporting cast, but none of them ever get a whole lot to do. Favreau and Peet are fine; John Cho ('Total Recall'), Morris Chestnut ('Think Like a Man') and rapper T.I. pop up to advance the plot. Robert Patrick ('Gangster Squad') has a couple of decent scenes and Eric Stonestreet (TV's 'Modern Family') might have the most fun of anybody in the whole movie.

Still, even with an undeniably talented cast fronted by two solid comic performers, 'Identity Thief' just never takes off. It has a weak central premise that more or less disappears 30 minutes in; from there, it's your standard 'odd couple road trip' movie. There are a few stabs at something a little more nuanced, but for the most part, it's all curse words and throat punches. Basically, McCarthy does shtick and Bateman is perturbed by it that's three-quarters of the movie.

If McCarthy ever becomes the comedy star Hollywood seems to want her to be, 'Identity Thief' will be a film she remembers with little feeling if she remembers it at all.

1 out of 5

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