However long the moment lasts, Melissa McCarthy is currently in her “ready for my spotlight” groove, dispensing her comic force in ways that lure us into her odd world. She has shown scene-stealing aplomb in Bridesmaids and This Is 40 (including stealing the end-credit bloopers portion of the program), and she is the best, possibly the only, reason to see Identity Thief, a problematic mess of a movie with just enough saucy, sassy moments to warrant a look-see — if you’re desperate or interested in following the trails of mildly outrageous comedy in McCarthy’s filmography.
In Identity Thief, our lovably over-the-top anti-heroine from Florida has stolen the identity of a mild-mannered finance-industry cog and family man in Denver with the “unisex” name Sandy, played by everyman Jason Bateman. She is busy using her false identity and free-flowing lines of credit to represent the notion that full-sized folks just want to have fun — and materialistic orgies, too. As the “real” Sandy finagles a plan by which he will deliver his false-Sandy doppelganger to the authorities to clear his name, he gets an up-close view of her shameless amorality. “Do you know what a sociopath is?” he asks his quarry. “Do they like ribs?” is her McCarthy-esque retort.
It would have been interesting if the narrative had stuck to the teasing and ripe, relevant subject of its title, but identity thievery is just a brief onramp to what turns into a fairly lame, by-the-numbers road movie. It obeys the tired rulebook of the Hollywood formula, replete with the odd couple that works through early friction to find ultimate compassion and friendship. There’s also the preposterous presence of criminal thugs chasing them with a look to a kill.
On the whole, Identity Thief‘s slender premise and wildly uneven comic setups amount to too much and too little. But the movie’s downsides are periodically brightened by McCarthy’s pratfalling, sexy-timing, and insouciant, self-determining moxie along the road-weary path.