Declined: In Identity Thief, Bateman’s Bankable Billing Can’t Lift This Flick out of the Red

Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman in Identity Thief.

Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman in Identity Thief.

How many ways can a grown person waste valuable time and lose vital I.Q. points at the same time? If you’re a movie critic, the possibilities are unlimited. And they all come together in a new chunk of junk called Identity Thief.

(1/4 stars)

Written by: Craig Mazin
Directed by:
Seth Gordon
Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy and John Cho
Running time: 111 min.

In the trashy, stupefying screenplay by Craig Mazin, Jason Bateman is a Denver accountant named Sandy Patterson—another in a long line of victims of the increasingly dangerous world of cyber-crime—whose credit card has been hacked and copied by a felonious thief in Miami (cacophonous, tractor-sized Melissa McCarthy). Now there are two Sandy Pattersons—an innocent fraud victim on one side of the country facing bankruptcy and a screeching, humongous creep on a marathon shopping spree on the other side of the country who is running up thousands of dollars in charges and wrecking her victim’s credit rating in the process. The police do nothing, the male Sandy loses his job and faces jail time, and the only solution is to devise a plan to apprehend the fake, female Sandy and drag her from Florida back to Colorado to turn herself in and clear his good name. In order to stretch a five-minute idea into 107 minutes of contrived drivel some people may mistake for plot, the plan backfires. She beats him up, steals his wallet, wrecks his rental car and leaves him stranded on the highway in a pair of pants stolen from a dead hobo. With no identification or money, he gets arrested for assaulting an officer, drug dealing and illegal gun possession. And still, against all odds, they hit the road to Colorado pursued by killers, bounty hunters and “skip tracers,” who track down crooks who owe money to gangsters, jump parole and get involved in other intrigues invented by hack Hollywood screenwriters. The snafus in the worst road movie since The Guilt Trip plunge Mr. Bateman and his female hippo into a motel with only a double bed, a grotesque sex scene with a pickled reprobate she picks up in a bar who demands a threesome, a violent bar fight that bloodies his nose, a kidnapping, a multi-car collision going the wrong way on the freeway … but why go on? They seem to be making it up as they go along, in a movie that threatens never to end.

By the time they got lost in the woods and fall into a den of hissing snakes, Elvis has long since left the building. Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) is a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success. Poor Jason Bateman. How did an actor so charming, talented, attractive and versatile get stuck in so much dreck? Identity theft is a real plague that is happening so often that people tremble every time they approach an ATM. It’s a deserving subject that should be explored in a more viable film, but Identity Thief is so bad it’s hard to believe it wasn’t directed by Judd Apatow or the Farrelly Brothers.