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Identity Thief

Year: 2013
Production Co: Aggregate Films
Studio: Universal
Director: Seth Gordon
Writer: Craig Mazin
Cast: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, Morris Chestnut, Jon Favreau, Genesis Rodriguez, Robert Patrick

It's very hard not to like Jason Bateman – his shtick is halfway between sardonic and earnest and one day (very) soon his lovable everyman with a stock of smarmy comebacks will wear thin, but for now he's still a pleasure to watch.

Melissa McCarthy, less so. Not that she isn't a good actress – you only have to see her work in John August's little seen The Nines to see that she can be a 'normal' person (and actually quite lovely) rather than the jolly/comical/stupid fat girl Hollywood always tries to cast her as because of her size (like here, and especially in Bridesmaids).

But for two such great performers, this film is a little asinine. The story is fairly dumb – riffing on a common fear in pop culture right now – and the execution completely dumb (as if the police would sanction a victim travelling across the country to apprehend an identity crime perpetrator in person by himself).

But Bateman and McCarthy have some charm and chemistry together. As long as they're on screen and the script is serving them adequately, things are fine (and funny). But most of the movie is a lazy cash-in on the stock phrase that gives it the title.

When Diana (McCarthy) scams Sandy's (Bateman) name and social security number out of him by phone, she makes a fake credit card in his name and goes on a spending spree. When his life is gradually shut down due to lack of funds and he realises what's happened, the cops' hands are tied and his exciting new job is threatened.

So Sandy takes to the road to find Diana and bring her back, in which case his boss with believe he's still the upstanding citizen he claims to be. Another odd-couple-on-the-road-learn-to-love-each-other story ensues, but not before things go from comically bad to worse along the way and we reach the obligatory darkest-before-the-dawn narrative. Yes, I've used too many phrases-with-hyphens, but that goes to prove how cookie cutter it all is.

If you can stick with it, Bateman and McCarthy will make it easier to swallow, but it reminded me of Dinner For Schmucks – performers who can do much better in pat studio comedy fare.

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