Identity Thief: Melissa McCarthy Is the Overachiever of the Year
Identity Thief isn't a very good movie. It's got a couple of moments where you'd have to be dead not to burst out with a little surprised laughter, spread sparsely around its too-long run time. It's not especially well-written, either. A schlubby guy named Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman, amusing but going back to the schlubby-straight-man-comedy well one time too many) has his identity stolen by a Florida woman named Diana (Melissa McCarthy). Because local law enforcement is mostly powerless when it comes to identity theft—something to which many of us can personally attest—Patterson heads to Florida himself to capture Diana and bring her to justice. A road trip packed with forced comedy bits and occasional bursts of gory action (the pair is pursued by a sleazy bounty hunter played by Robert Patrick and a couple of ruthless hit men) ensues.
But Identity Thief has one glorious thing going for it, and that is Melissa McCarthy. If you were left wondering after her star turn in Bridesmaids whether McCarthy was a one-trick pony, Identity Thief is your proof that she's star material. There's one scene early in the film, just before the first puke joke, where it occurred to me that something weird was happening on screen. "My God," I thought to myself, "she's actually acting!" McCarthy takes a scene that would in a thousand other actors' hands be a standard excuse to ham it up—Diana spends a disgusting amount of Sandy's money at a bar—and supplies it with equal veins of nuance and broad physical comedy. Her Diana is a manic clown, all right—she falls over and dishes out funny neck punches and looks silly when she runs—but McCarthy fills her giant eyes with this desperate neediness that makes all the humor she finds in her character feel a little bit dangerous. You get the sense right away that this is a woman who has no friends and is willing to spend disgusting amounts of money so she can pretend that anyone gives a shit about her.
I can't exactly recommend Identity Thief, because it's mostly a waste of your time. But if you're especially interested in comedy performances and if you like great acting that has been smuggled into otherwise unremarkable movies, you'll find something to enjoy about it.