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The Independent Critic

Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, Genesis Rodriguez, T.I., John Cho, Jon Favreau, Morris Chestnut
Seth Gordon
Craig Mazin (Story), Jerry Eeten (Story), Steve Conrad (Writer)
Rated R
111 Mins.
Universal Pictures
Identity Thief DVD Bonus Features

  • Gag Reel
  • The Making of Identity Thief
  • Unrated and Theatrical Versions of the Film

Identity Thief Blu-ray Bonus Features

  • All of the DVD Extras
  • Scene Stealing: Capturing the Humor of Identity Thief
  • The Skiptracer’s Van
  • Alternate Takes

 "Identity Thief" Proves That Melissa McCarthy Can Act 
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There are moments in the new comedy Identity Thief that show you exactly just how brilliant this film could have been. Instead of an entertaining and breezy comedy, Identity Thief could have been, and probably should have been, one of early 2013's best films.

How can I describe these moments without giving away too much of what actually makes the film work?

It's easy, because these were the smaller moments in the film. These were the moments in the film that show just how brilliantly Jason Bateman can pull off dark comedy and, somewhat surprisingly, that Melissa McCarthy is a far better actress than her fairly low-brow and fat-centered comedy has shown thus far.

There's one scene about midway through the film where the real Sandy (Jason Bateman) and the identity stealing Sandy (Melissa McCarthy) are about to briefly part ways and fake Sandy picks up real Sandy's ringing phone and listens to the sound of his obviously adoring daughter. This could have been and probably was written as not much more than a throwaway scene, but Melissa McCarthy's response and body language in the scene is so transformational and so deeply felt that it instantly became one of my favorite scenes in a film where I had favorite scene after favorite scene despite, overall, not being that much in love with the film.

There's another scene, almost similar in tone to the former one, but coming closer to the end of the film. Melissa McCarthy's Sandy is on a spending spree and being her usual flamboyant self in an upscale salon. It's a scene she's lived out many times, living large yet revealing her true self and getting laughed at, not with, along the way. Yet, this time McCarthy gives, once again, the most simple yet amazing response that I actually felt the tears welling up in my eyes as I watched this identity stealing woman hardened by life finally admit her simple truth.

And there are more scenes.

There were scenes that made me laugh. There were other scenes that touched me deeply. There were scenes that made me think "Man, in a better film these two would be brilliant together."

In case you haven't caught on, Identity Thief is about one Sandy Patterson (Bateman) whose entire life nearly gets destroyed just as he's landed his dream job by an identity stealing woman (McCarthy) from Winter Park, Florida. Before he's caught on, McCarthy's Sandy has swiped his identity while creating a new life, running up a load of debt, acquiring a couple of felonies and ticking off a couple of drug dealers. By the time he does catch on, the real Sandy has had his credit cards canceled and is on the verge of losing his brand new job because of a credit report with more than a few smudges on it.

We won't even talk about the visit from local police.

In order to clear his name, real Sandy has to head down to Florida and bring back fake Sandy for what he plans as a confession in front of his new boss and the nearby police department.

As one might expect, there are quite a few jokes that fall considerably flat here including the obligatory pokes at the girl's name of Sandy and one godawful joke muttered by a cowboy in a roadside bar about how he likes his women. The latter joke has such a slow build-up that you can't help but be expecting something outrageously funny - Then, he blurts out the punchline and you're left looking at the screen muttering "What does that even mean?"

There are fantastic performers given far too little to do, like Amanda Peet as the real Sandy's wife, while there are still other average performers, like rapper T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez as the aforementioned drug dealers, whose presence only contributes to the film's moments of mediocrity.

Identity Thief is so good in certain moments that I wanted it to blow me away. I wanted this to be a film that would be considered my first "must see" film of 2013. Unfortunately, the film's really brilliant moments and really entertaining moments are surrounded by too many moments of stale one-liners and formulaic plot threads for the film to be even remotely considered top-notch comedy. This is a good comedy made better because both Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman are so incredibly likable that it's nearly impossible to not enjoy their presence here even if you sit in your seat picking apart the film.

I didn't. Despite it's formulas and occasionally stale moments, I found myself surrendered to the entire journey and enjoying myself immensely despite, in the back of my mind, recognizing the film's structural and screenplay flaws. The film is directed by Seth Gordon, whose doc The King of Kong really made his name and whose Horrible Bosses came much closer to the tone that this film should have possessed.

Identity Thief won't steal your hearts or your funny bone, but neither will it run off with your hard-earned cash at the box-office. This isn't a brilliant or ground-breaking film, but it's a genuinely entertaining film with some surprisingly wonderful heartfelt moments courtesy of a branching out Melissa McCarthy. This may not be the first "must see" film of the year, but if you must see a film this weekend Identity Thief will remind you why so much of America still loves Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic