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'Identity Thief': Nearly Two Hours, Stolen

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'Identity Thief': Nearly Two Hours, Stolen

Movie Reviews

'Identity Thief': Nearly Two Hours, Stolen

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The new road-trip comedy "Identity Thief" is about a guy who tracks down and confronts a woman who's wrecked his credit rating. It stars Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman. Critic Bob Mondello says credit card scams aren't the only rip-off in this movie.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Great concept for a comedy - really funny trailer - but you'll start counting missed opportunities in the very first scene when Sandy Patterson, who works for a financial firm and does not appear to be mentally challenged - as played by Jason Bateman - blindly hands over his Social Security number to a total stranger on the phone.

I repeat - he works at a financial firm, and he gives his Social Security number to a stranger. No tricks, no subterfuge, no laughs; dude is just not too bright. Not much fun in that. But his scammer is being played by Melissa McCarthy, who absolutely deserves a star vehicle after stealing every scene she was in, in "Bridesmaids." And when she's allowed to just riff, she's pretty wonderful; talking to a waitress in a diner, for instance, making up stories to embarrass Sandy as he's trying to take her to the authorities.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IDENTITY THIEF)

MELISSA MCCARTHY: (As Diana) Walter's a fireman.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As character) Oh!

MCCARTHY: (As Diana) Yeah it's OK, it's OK. You know, that pretty intense...

JASON BATEMAN: (As Sandy) She doesn't care.

MCCARTHY: (As Diana) ...accident last year, and he injured his male parts. They're just shredded down there and now, he can't work. (Starts to cry) He wants to fight fires, and he wants to pee standing up. Don't you want to pee standing up? I know you do. But he can't.

BATEMAN: (As Sandy) Please bring two soups.

MONDELLO: Fun, right? So why do you suppose the script keeps subverting her gift for verbal improv, by having her throat-punch all comers just as a conversation is get started? Seriously, over and over.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IDENTITY THIEF")

BATEMAN: (As Sandy) Now, I have a plan...

MONDELLO: And every time, she's then turned into a punching bag, busted in the chops with a guitar, beaned with household appliances, even rammed with an automobile at full throttle.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IDENTITY THIEF")

BATEMAN: (As Diana) Ow!

MONDELLO: The rest of the cast is also oddly misused. Why on earth would you have a master of sarcasm, like Jason Bateman, play a sappy, sentimental chump; or cast "Harold & Kumar's" John Cho as a banker who doesn't even blink when the police want to search his office for drugs? And casting Robert Patrick - who was "Terminator II's" relentless, stop-at-nothing T-1000 cyborg - as a relentless, stop-at-nothing bounty hunter, is so perfect it has to have been intended as a joke. But there's no punchline because in beard and scruffy shirt, he's unrecognizable. And the script makes him so easy to sidetrack that two stumblebum drug dealers can push him around.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IDENTITY THIEF")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: We need her more than you do. Better luck next time, old man.

MONDELLO: And, and, and - I mean, look, stealing someone's identity must be ghastly for victims. But in the right storytelling hands, it can be a comic goldmine. Think Monty Python's "Life of Brian," Chaplin's "Great Dictator," the Coen Brothers' "Big Lebowski"; and on stage, everything from "Charley's Aunt" to "The Comedy of Errors."

Electronic identity theft offers so many new possibilities for confusion and mortification. And to leave almost all of them unexplored, in a movie called "Identity Thief," is sort of - I don't know, criminal? I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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