Ah, the road trip movie. Seems like every year we get a couple thrown our way– often featuring a mismatched couple who face a myriad of worst-case scenarios in what, for most people, would be a simple two-, three-day drive.
The latest entry is Identity Thief, starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy. Bateman is Sandy Patterson, a financial analyst in Denver who wakes up one day to find that someone has taken his personal information and parlayed it into a hefty shopping spree in Florida. It’s only when he’s arrested that he finds out it’s all the work of a woman named Diana (McCarthy), who (as the movie’s poster tells us) has been having the time of her life… with his life.
When Sandy gets no help from the cops, he takes it on himself to fix his situation (loss of job, utilities, and credit rating) by flying down to Florida to find Diane and bring her back to Colorado to confess. As you’d expect, everything bad that could happen does, and, sure enough, over the course of the trip the pair learn valuable life lessons. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was still December and I was still watching The Guilt Trip.
That’s not to say there aren’t memorable moments and even some that elicit real laughs (Modern Family‘s Eric Stonestreet is hilarious as an urban cowboy they meet in Georgia), but when we find out that some toughs (Genesis Rodriguez, T.I., and Robert Patrick) are on Diane’s trail, things start careening off course. Car chases, shootouts, and other trite mayhem abound, detracting from what, to that point, had the potential for a pretty solid comedy.
Borrowing heavily from classics like Planes, Trains & Automobiles and Midnight Run (just to name a few), Identity Thief is heavy on slapstick and light on originality– so much so that even people who somehow missed either of those two movies will have a strange sense of deja vu. It’s no surprise, really; screenwriter Craig Mazin’s last film was 2011’s The Hangover Part II, when he essentially took the same jokes (and storyline) of the original Hangover flick and recycled them, perhaps hoping we wouldn’t notice.
Director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) has a decent set-up to play with here, and there are plenty of guffaws, sure; Bateman and McCarthy aren’t quite at the level of Arrested Development and Bridesmaids, respectively, but they do their damndest to save what may well have been a train wreck without them. Ultimately, though, Identity Thief ends up feeling too derivative to be anything more than just a “fine” night at the movies.