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Identity Thief (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 112 minutes.

Not for children.

Women are irrational; that's all there is to that.

Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags.

Prof. Henry Higgins.

Cary Grant was Hollywood's master at comedically displaying the frustration a reasonable man has in dealing with an irrational woman. He did it with Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, and other leading ladies of the 30s and 40s.

If Grant has an acceptable successor in the 21st century, it is Jason Bateman. Here he is a husband with a good job who finds his credit destroyed by Melissa McCarthy, who steals his identity and runs wild 2,000 miles away. Melissa defines what Prof. Higgins thought was irrationality.

Even if a movie isn't wonderfully terrific throughout, if it contains a line that can make me laugh uncontrollably I will probably give it a good rating. This movie, however, has both. It is wonderfully terrific throughout, and it does contain one line that had me laughing uncontrollably and still has me laughing when I think about it now.

While Bateman and McCarthy give award-quality performances (forget that, though; Academy recognition for comedy's is few and far between; only 1934's It Happened One Night and 1978's Annie Hall come to mind), the supporting cast is equally good, especially Genesis Rodriguez, who plays a killer pursuing McCarthy (and who delivers the line that had me in stitches) and her partner killer T.I. But they aren't alone in fine performances; Robert Patrick winningly plays a skiptracer also pursuing McCarthy, and Jon Favreau is deliciously hateful as Bateman's boss from hell.

Frankly, I wasn't looking forward to this film. The trailer didn't entice me and I'm not a fan of McCarthy's performance in Bridesmaids. I'm a fan now, though. She shows admirable range here.

The film has a brilliant script (Craig Mazin) and direction (Seth Gordon, who directed one of my favorite comedies from 2011, Horrible Bosses). I hesitate to give credit to the line that broke me up to Mazin alone because it might have been the director's idea to do it the way it's handled, but Mazin might have written it that way, too. Whatever, this line and the way it's delivered is so funny and unexpected it shows the brilliance of both the writer and director, as well as Rodriguez's perfect timing.