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Movie review: ‘Identity Thief’ blends high morals and potty jokes

This undated publicity image released by Universal Pictures shows Jason Bateman, background, and Melissa McCarthy in a scene from, "Identity Thief." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures)

This undated publicity image released by Universal Pictures shows Jason Bateman, background, and Melissa McCarthy in a scene from, "Identity Thief." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures) Purchase photo reprints »

Director Seth Gordon’s new film, “Identity Thief,” blends heartfelt humor with a certain amount of shocking perversity, creating a fusion of morals and potty jokes.

Jason Bateman plays Sandy, an honest and moral businessman whose identity is stolen by Diana (Melissa McCarthy), a fraud artist. As the two vie for control over their self respect — and his name — they face challenges that unfold in a high-octane comedy of errors, led by McCarthy, whose talent for belligerent monologue and dramatic physical comedy is unparalleled.

Sandy, an accountant, decides to go after his identity thief, and once he’s got Diana in his grips, he discovers she’s one tough cookie. He, on the other hand, is not a tough guy, and as he attempts to capture Diana, he becomes enmeshed in a world that is beyond his neat sense of control.

The brazen maverick manipulates him and embarrasses him time and time again. She is in control, even when she’s in big trouble, and she challenges her captor incessantly, creating a delightfully sardonic mood to the film. McCarthy, in particular, plays charmingly off Bateman’s straight-laced character.

After events conspire to throw Sandy and his nemesis together, a strained, yet hilarious relationship develops. Stuck together by fate, the two come to know each other more deeply as they navigate the dangers of the corrupt underworld in which Diana makes her home. As the movie progresses, the line between who’s right and who’s wrong begins to blur, and it’s not so easy anymore to pick sides.

Bateman is perfectly cast as Sandy; he’s really good at playing “normal.” Pairing him with McCarthy was a wise move. Bateman’s all dry-humor, a subtle mind at work in a loud world, while McCarthy’s brash and outlandish. Bateman’s Sandy provides a structured backbone for the film, which features its fair share of dysfunctional characters. Even when he’s pushed to his limits by Diana, Sandy maintains his moral compass.

As he did in his 2011 film, “Horrible Bosses,” Gordon serves up a brand of humor in which truth and honor survive in spite of certain shocking tendencies. “Identity Thief” maintains its dignity, despite its bold ventures into crude scenarios.

There’s no neat ending here — there’s not even a believable plot. But, as the movie tests our patience, it also artfully stretches the imagination. So check it out, and enjoy it for its sheer unpredictability.

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