Identity Thief (2013)

(On Cable TV, October 2014) What happens when Hollywood’s insistence in showcasing an irritating comic persona runs into a complete lack of sympathy?  I’ll be the first to admit that Melissa McCarthy’s supporting turn in Bridesmaids was one of the best things about it.  But based on The Heat and now Identity Thief, it looks as if that kind of humor doesn’t work as a leading performance.  Once again, McCarthy finds herself playing an abrasive, brash and thoroughly unlikable character: an identity thief, living large on other people’s accounts while incidentally ruining their lives.  Well, I’m not laughing.  Of course, thing being a bog-standard mainstream Hollywood comedy, we know what’s next: rehabilitation of her character through even worse antagonists, pitiable childhood trauma, deep-seated sweetness and out-of-character heartfelt actions.  Well guess what, Hollywood: I’m still not playing along.  That character remains unlikable throughout, and much of the film follows along with it.  It doesn’t help that Identity Thief remains by-the-numbers as a road movie featuring opposites: the plot beats are always obvious, and nothing makes the material rise above mediocrity.  Too bad; I really like Jason Bateman as the straight man, there are plenty of interesting actors buried in secondary roles (from Genesis Rodriguez to Robert Patrick to John Cho) and the film is directed cleanly by Seth Gordon, with even a spectacular car chase midway through to keep things interesting.  (But then again, mid-movie car chases have becomes something of a fixture in recent mainstream buddy comedies, and I’m not sure why.)  Identity Thief earns its audience’s antipathy early on and never lets go –by the time it’s over, we’re just glad it’s over.

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