In Identity Thief, a man with a name used by males and females, Sandy, has his identity stolen by a woman in another state. Using credit cards and a homemade driver license, fake Sandy opens lines of credit under real Sandy’s name, goes on several shopping sprees, runs up a $2,100 bar tab, and gets arrested a few times.
After having his credit ruined and being arrested for a bench warrant that fake Sandy caused — as all too often happens in reality — real Sandy decides to travel to Florida to find fake Sandy and bring her to the police.
Meet Sandy Bigelow Patterson (played by Jason Bateman) of Denver, CO.
He’s a husband, father of two, an accounts processor for PFG (a financial group), and a penny pincher.
He and his family live a quiet existence in their tiny two-bedroom apartment while his boss, Harold Cornish (Jon Favreau), gives himself and his partners “retention” bonuses of $1.2 million, even as the rest of PFG’s employees go another year without a bonus for their hard work.
Enter fake Sandy Bigelow Patterson (Melissa McCarthy), a criminal with a scary talent for quickly stealing identities and a signature reflex for punching people in the throat.
Fake Sandy is the opposite of real Sandy in every way, especially in personality. Where real Sandy carefully weighs his options, fake Sandy dives in head first, with a ready made lie to get herself out of trouble. On careful inspection, fake Sandy would be that friend you would call if you got into trouble; you just can’t trust her with your wallet.
The reality of the story by screenwriter Craig Mazin (with help from Jerry Eeten), is that it’s become increasingly easy for thieves to steal identities. These days, just giving out your name and address could mean identity theft.
Identity Thief also serves as a cautionary tale for average people to be very careful when giving out information — especially if they call you, instead of you calling them.
Director Seth Gordon (responsible for Horrible Bosses, Four Christmases and episodes of Modern Family, The Office, Community and Parks & Recreation) knows his way around a comedy. He takes this cautionary tale and makes it a comedy with a happy ending. Sadly, in reality, many identity victims do not get a happy ending. Instead they sometimes get a mountain of debt and possible jail time.
On a lighter note, it’s safe to say that McCarthy has mastered the art of physical comedy. Who says big girls can’t have fun and get paid to do so? As fake Sandy,
McCarthy is so much in her element that she needs her own prequel, so audiences can experience the joy of watching Fake Sandy onscreen again. McCarthy, who has a knack for creating memorable characters, has come a long way since playing pastry chef Sookie on Gilmore Girls.
How Bateman as real Sandy can keep a straight face during fake Sandy’s hijinks and hilarious lines is amazing, but that is classic Bateman.
He’s always the uptight square who never thinks anything is funny, even when everyone around him is laughing.
For bonus enjoyment, audiences can look out for funny turns of favorite performers in Thief.
T.I. Harris hams it up as Julian, a sassy hit man in a masculine sort of way. McCarthy’s Bridesmaids co-stars pop up as well; the Bridesmaids ladies love working together. Ellie Kemper plays a sensitive waitress at a diner. McCarthy’s real-life husband, Ben Falcone, plays a front desk clerk at the Cheshire Motor Inn and manages to not laugh as fake Sandy tells a story about her fake husband’s “shredded” man parts.
Also, welcome back to the big screen Morris Chestnut. He is underused as Detective Reilly, the Colorado cop helping real Sandy arrest fake Sandy.
While Identity Thief doesn’t disappoint on the laughs, it does skimp the audience on its loose ending. However, there’s a great way for the filmmakers to redeem themselves: Give us more Melissa McCarthy.