Seth Gordon’s “Identity Thief” is advertised as a hilarious farce about Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) traveling across the country to confront an identity thief (Melissa McCarthy) who destroys his good name through credit card fraud. In reality, “Identity Thief” is about a woman who has reached the bottom of her emotional barrel and her journey to overcome past transgressions and become an upstanding citizen.
Bateman takes on dual roles in “Identity Thief.” Like many actors who are breaking away from exclusive acting performances, Bateman takes the challenge from both sides of the camera. As well as playing a major character in the film, he also produced the film himself. Bateman personally selected McCarthy as his film opposite after being blown away by her performance in “Bridesmaids.” “Identity Thief” has outstanding acting, superior producing, and an exceptional script.
Lewd and offensive comedy has engulfed our modern comedy culture. Films such as “Animal House” and, more recently, “The Hangover” take witty dialogue and combine it with R-rated, over-the-top humor to create downright hilariously raunchy comedy. This category of comedy is generally dominated by the boys of Hollywood; however, McCarthy takes crude comedy to an unexpected new level. From the time she gained popularity as “Sookie” in the popular television show “Gilmore Girls,” she has grown in all facets of her acting performances. She undoubtedly moved her comedy acting up a notch and stole the spotlight in Identity Thief. Along with McCarthy’s spectacular performance, Bateman showed he was ready to expand to the next step in film production.
Unequivocally, Bateman was focused on his greater movie making responsibilities when he produced “Identity Thief.” Unlike many actors who have played dual roles as actors and producers, Bateman was selfless. He acknowledged that McCarthy was extremely talented and had the ability to carry the weight of the film. Originally, the script was more focused on his role (Patterson), and the character who stole his identity was initially a male; however, the entire script changed when Bateman attended the premier of “Bridesmaids.” After watching McCarthy, he contacted everyone involved with his pre-production and told them he had found the actor to play his opposite, and it was not a guy. Although Bateman played a huge part in the creative production of “Identity Thief,” screenplay artist Craig Mazin created the raw materials needed for this great comedy.
With writing credits on films such as “Scary Movie 3,” “Scary Movie 4” and “The Hangover Part II,” Mazin is no amateur in the field of comedy. However, in reference to his work on “Identity Thief,” Mazin polished the character mechanics of the story. Along with creating hilarious scenes, Mazin went the extra mile and created a remarkable story through in-depth character development. Unlike most comedies where the characters distance themselves from the audience to allow the viewers to focus on the punch lines, Mazin strives to ensure the audience develops feelings and empathy for his characters. My audience was more than just laughing at the hysterical exchanges between the actors; we were enthralled as the characters evolved, lives intertwined and storyline unfolded.
“Identity Thief” is an overall great film. On paper, the film is listed as a comedy, but in its entirety, the film is a roller coaster of emotions and not just one laugh after another. One minute I was rolling with laughter as McCarthy was bashed with a guitar and the next minute I was all teary-eyed and emotional as she discloses her misguided past. “Identity Thief” is a prime example of how exceptional acting, top-shelf producing and superior writing come together to create a masterful film with great performances on both sides of the camera.
James Ealum, a native of Albany, has studied to be a screenwriter at Full Sail University Film School, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and worked on three films. At Darton College, he majored in theater, where he acted, stage managed and performed lighting design. He plans to earn a master’s degree in creative writing.