Pretty much everything about this movie says that it should be good. It’s got Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, a solid selection of recognizable faces in small roles to fill out the fun (Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, John Cho, Robert Patrick), and a decent director (Seth Gordon). Too bad they forgot to include the funny parts. Here’s the trailer, which is convincing evidence that sometimes talented people just aren’t enough and a pit of suck can devour the best of intentions:
If trailers have all the best parts of the film, then the feature length version of this must be a buzzsaw colonoscopy.
Here’s the plot summary in case you need to take a nap:
Horrible Bosses’ Jason Bateman and Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy lead the cast of Identity Thief, an all-star comedy in which a regular guy is forced to extreme measures to clear his name. With everything to lose after his identity is stolen, he’ll find out how crazed you can get trying to settle a bad credit score.
Unlimited funds have allowed Diana (McCarthy) to live it up on the outskirts of Miami, where the queen of retail buys whatever strikes her fancy. There’s only one glitch: The ID she’s using to finance these sprees reads “Sandy Bigelow Patterson”… and it belongs to an accounts rep (Bateman) who lives halfway across the U.S.
With only one week to hunt down the con artist before his world implodes, the real Sandy Bigelow Patterson heads south to confront the woman with an all-access pass to his life. And as he attempts to bribe, coax and wrangle her the 2,000 miles to Denver, one easy target will discover just how tough it is to get your name back.
See the problem with the film is that it inverts the sympathy of the characters. Oh sure there is the obvious eye roll nitpicking that Bateman’s character should just call the damned police, that the situation itself is just not particularly funny, but there’s a more fundamental problem. The one who suffers is the nice guy and the one grotesquely taking advantage is the asshole. But the film likes its stars too much and asks us to be sympathetic to both of them.
Comedy works when we can laugh at the misfortune of the unsympathetic knowing that it is comeuppance, or when we can laugh at the misfortune of the sympathetic knowing that they will get justice of some sort in the end. Sympathizing with both sides is weak sauce and takes all the edge off of the comedy.