Butler County Times Gazette
  • Costello: "Identity Thief" struggles to amuse amid the craziness

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  • A couple major spoilers are ahead.
    Did Melissa McCarthy actually accomplish some acting? You know, like as a real character in a movie?
    Okay, not really. But she tries.
    McCarthy shows a rare side of her in “Identity Thief,” a tag-team comedy with her and Jason Bateman. She actually cries. And not from antics or laughs, either. She genuinely tried to convey a heavy set of emotions and bring depth to a character in a movie that otherwise wouldn’t require much understanding or attachment under its pretenses.
    It’s not like McCarthy is going to get any Oscar nominations (let’s hope not, anyway). For a majority of the movie, she’s her usual self: laughable, deplorable, crude, shallow and uninteresting. McCarthy, who still is riding momentum from “Bridesmaids,” tries way too hard to be funny with her tail-off side comments (probably ad-libs, also a bad thing) that keep going to the point that she becomes painful to watch.
    But somewhere along the way in “Identity Thief,” McCarthy gives a couple scenes with emotion and hurt from her past as we learn how she was abandoned as a child.
    The problem with this is two-fold. One, she isn’t really that convincing. But it’s quite a step up from anything else she’s done, so it’s easy to look the other way on that.
    Two, and more importantly, several moments of the movie are inexplicably senseless. Maybe it’s for the sheer sake of comedy, but when a person gets mauled by an oncoming car at a pretty decent speed (she literally flips over and rolls on the side of the road), then said person gets up later like it never happened, there’s a problem.
    See, comedies often times try to get away with stuff, and, kind of like with McCarthy’s acting, the audience is expected to look the other way and understand that it’s simply a comedy, not to be taken seriously. The problem with that arises when more than half a dozen scenes involve ridiculousness that doesn’t remotely equate to entertainment. People get shot in the leg or foot, but don’t really feel much pain after a couple seconds. One guy gets shot in the back of the neck (you know, a place that would result in death for most people), bleeds all over the place, but is somehow coherent enough to continue tracking down these two people who are interfering with his investigation. Just silly.
    “Identity Thief” actually had something going for a little while. There was a real problem when Sandy Patterson the male (played by Bateman) has his identity stolen over the phone, leading to Sandy Patterson the female (McCarthy), who steals identities – and other people’s money – all the time. He has to go to great lengths to track down the fraudulent Patterson, which includes traveling from Colorado to Florida, to get his life back on track. Bateman and McCarthy then spend several days traveling back across country in a car (because having two Sandy Pattersons on one plane simply can’t happen, of course) in hopes that the real Patterson can prove to the police and his boss at work that the fake Patterson is the one causing problems.
    Page 2 of 2 - So of course, on their trip, all kinds of crazy shenanigans must occur, right? It wouldn’t make sense to do this comedy without the scene where McCarthy meets a strange sex weirdo in a bar across from the hotel she’s staying at for a night. It wouldn’t be good comedy unless some crazy driver kidnaps McCarthy, which forces an incredible car chase that results in the destruction of one and a half vehicles.
    Let’s not forget the ridiculous theory that the police wouldn’t be able to help the real Patterson in any way unless the fake Patterson was in Denver, too. The presumption was that only the cops in Florida could do anything. Let’s hope this isn’t the limit to our real police force’s usefulness.
    And besides, why wouldn’t the real Patterson simply call the bank and have his account frozen? Do banks not have any guard against identity theft? Oh, and this isn’t to mention the hundreds of times the fake Patterson would have been caught in real life.
    But it’s all for the sake of good comedy, right? Guess it’s better to just laugh it off.

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