Saturday, February 09, 2013

FILM REVIEW: Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman's "Identity Thief"

At first glance, Identity Thief looks like it would be as zany and over-the-top as such road trip box office stinkers as All About Steve and Due Date. But I'm happy to report that it was surprisingly good. Granted, I went in with very low expectations, so that probably helped a bit. But I was rooting for Melissa McCarthy, and hoping to see if she could carry a film on her own. The thing is while she may be the lead actress on the CBS sitcom "Mike & Molly," she has two enormous factors set against her.

The first factor is her age. At the moment Hollywood is dominated by the fresh young faces of Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway, and Olivia Wilde. And the second factor was crassly addressed in 2010 by Marie Claire TV blogger Maura Lynch, who ignorantly expressed her disgust of having to watch what she considered morbidly obese actors on TV, and just yesterday by New York Observer critic Rex Reed, who made unnecessarily crude comments in his review of this film. While her fans—fat and thin—may be supportive, at the end of the day, there are more skinny (and getting skinnier by the minute) actresses in Hollywood than there are overweight ones. And the ones that are overweight are often secretly plotting ways to get skinnier (see Sarah Rue, comedian Monique, and Jennifer Hudson for reference). McCarthy herself has actually dropped a lot of weight since her "Gilmore Girls" days. And one imagines up-and-comer Rebel Wilson, a self-proclaimed fatty, isn't far behind. However, in spite of these factors, after seeing this film, I am confident that McCarthy could in fact do what's perceived in current pop culture as the impossible: make it big while being big.

The world first took notice of McCarthy ten years after the fans of "Gilmore Girls" did. It wasn't until 2010 when her series debuted and she stole scenes in The Back-Up Plan, Life as We Know It, and Bridesmaids that she became a household name. Critics branded her as the female Zach Galifianakis....which worried me. Galifianakis was in the aforementioned Due Date with the notoriously funny Robert Downey, Jr. All the ingredients for hilarity were in the mix, but the results were abysmal. He hasn't actually been able to successfully carry a film or costar in one since he stole every scene in The Hangover—four years ago. The sequel wasn't even that funny. If it wasn't for the dorky genius of HBO's recently cancelled sleuth comedy "Bored to Death," he'd be all but forgotten. So naturally, I worried that McCarthy could suffer the same fate if she signed up for a slew of roles where she'd run her chubby-awkward-loon routine into the ground.
Alas, not only did McCarthy choose a three-dimensional character who wasn't a caricature of crazy but someone capable of displaying hilarious lunacy in one scene, crafty vindictive manipulation in another, and heartbreaking loneliness in the next, but she also set up a pretty sweet lineup of films in her future. You've probably already seen trailers for her summer buddy cop comedy The Heat with Sandra Bullock, where she plays an untamed version of her Bridesmaids character, tomboyish and tough as nails. But you'll probably be surprised to learn that she and her husband, Ben Falcone, who you'll remember as the sky marshal in Bridesmaids, are co-directing and -writing her next project Tammy, which she'll co-star in with Shirley MacLaine. It's another road trip comedy. This time involving a recently fired and jilted woman who decides to hit the road with her foul-mouthed, alcoholic grandmother. Cue the inappropriateness. Choosing to take the reigns of her career creatively is a smart move. That's actually the problem with most comedians and comedic actors. They're the funniest when they write their own stuff. Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg learned that, and hopefully Galifianakis and even Dane Cook will learn it soon.

If you need proof that McCarthy deserves to go further in her career and to not be stunted by her appearance, then you have to watch Identity Thief. She plays a con artist with many personalities in her back pocket for duping people. Watch her go in and out of character during a con. You'll see more than just her pudgy face. You'll see that she's three times the actress's of today in more ways than one.


  1. wow. well this was a refreshing review.

  2. Good review Monica. At the end of the day, it is not the two leads that let this movie down, it is the material itself, which unfortunately causes the movie to be a slight rental recommendation at best.