The odiously unfunny Identity Thief is the latest installment in the “women behaving badly” cycle that has included the far funnier Bridesmaids and even Bad Teacher. Although for some reason the bland Jason Bateman gets top credit over Melissa McCarthy, who was Oscar nominated for the former, she stars as Diana in this flick that’s about as funny as McCarthyism. Diana (or whatever her name really is) assumes the name and identity of Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Bateman) and proceeds to live high off the hog, literally at his unwitting, unwilling expense.
Identity theft is a serious issue, but what the screenwriters Craig Mazen (who’s apparently extremely versatile, as the amazing Mazen also has credits for writing men behaving badly pix, including The Hangover II and III) and Jerry Eeten seem to have done is take a topical trendy subject that has a certain cachet and “brand name” appeal in order to attract attention to a movie that really deals with the title only about 5% or so of the time. The rest of the film is more of a road trip (but with On the Road and the upcoming Big Sur, I guess Jack Kerouac has that move market cornered) about the overweight 40-something McCarthy’s vulgar hi-jinks. We’re supposed to find sheer hilarity in a fat middle-aged woman’s masturbating, having sex, meting out and receiving physical punishment and but of course, the McCarthy house specialty: foul mouthing.
But I was unamused and judging by the response of the Arclight audience, which — like your beleaguered critic who puts himself into harm’s way by reviewing where fools fear to tread so you, dear viewer, don’t have to — only laughed intermittently, so will the average moviegoer. This pic reminded me of Roseanne Barr’s unfortunate 1989 She-Devil, which she subsequently denounced. It is a sign of the appallingly low level of social discourse in an America in decline that the “women behaving badly” cycle is some sort of indication and even example of female empowerment. It’s like the “liberals” who believe that allowing women, gays and undocumented immigrants to fight for the U.S. military in combat is likewise some sort of manifestation of “equal rights.” Yes, you too can get your limbs blown off, have lifelong PTSD, even get killed, commit war crimes and atrocities invading Third World countries that never attacked us, by fighting for U.S. imperialism! Because we’re all equal pawns and cannon fodder now for the American Empire. In a similar way, “women behaving badly” poses the notion that “equality” means females adapting the same type of aggressive, belligerent, obnoxious behavior that is widespread among rude, crude dudes in our increasingly impolite, alienated society. (See Amy Alkon’s book I See Rude People.)
Jon Favreau, John Cho and Amanda Peet are wasted in bit parts in Identity Thief. Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet, however, is droll as Big Chuck in a sex scene that plays against type.
The most trenchant observation Identity Thief makes is that when the completely innocent Sandy encounters the police (Morris Chestnut is serviceable as Detective Reilly) regarding the theft of his identity resulting in thousands of dollars of overcharges he did not make, the pigs are completely unwilling and unable to help him. How typical: As Alfred Hitchcock shrewdly observed (and there’s a sequence in Psycho that specifically deals with this idea), the police are usually completely ineffectual. (Except when you go out on strike or protest or occupy — then, but of course, they’re always there to beat you upside the head with their billy clubs, mace you, chase you or even worse.)
But the main thing that this ugly flick directed by Seth Gordon will steal is your time and money wasted purchasing tickets to see this unfunny waste of time. Although there’s nothing super about this miserable movie it’s best to keep this one a secret identity.