"Identity Thief" failed to tickle critics' funnybones.
The R-rated comedy arrived with high expectations, boasting two comedic mastercraftsmen in Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy and "Horrible Bosses" director Seth Gordon. However, the early reviews have been brutal, with "Identity Thief" eking out an abysmal 25 percent "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, putting it in the critical vicinity of recent dud "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," which scored a 15 percent rating.
"Identity Thief" centers on an accounts executive (Bateman) who tracks down the woman (McCarthy) who stole his identity and is wrecking havoc on his credit rating. It opens in theaters Friday where perhaps its stiffest competition will come from the blizzard currently blanketing much of New England in snow.
"Identity Thief" soared to the top of Alonso Duralde's must-miss list. In TheWrap, he savaged the film for stealing 112 minutes of the audience's time.
"'Identity Thief' has the kind of cast that makes audiences ask, 'How bad could it be?' before proceeding to answer that very question," Duralde writes.
Manohla Dargis was clearly not amused by the onscreen antics, labeling the film "lazy." On the plus side, the New York Times reviewer did praise McCarthy for injecting life into the proceedings, although she bemoaned the fact that her performance did not reach the Oscar-nominated heights of her turn in "Bridesmaids."
"It is entirely possible to ignore the worst parts of this movie, to drift along during the lulls, slide over the half-baked jokes and just wait for Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Bateman to do their things," Dargis writes. "(The character actor Eric Stonestreet does his part too.) They deserve better vehicles, and we deserve better movies, but at least we can look forward to new episodes of 'Arrested Development' in May."
The film also roused the grouch in Rex Reed. The New York Observer critic opined that the film was so bad, he couldn't believe it wasn't directed by Judd Apatow or the Farrelly Brothers (which could be construed as a compliment depending on your view of "Dumb and Dumber").
"How many ways can a grown person waste valuable time and lose vital I.Q. points at the same time?" Reed asked. "If you’re a movie critic, the possibilities are unlimited. And they all come together in a new chunk of junk called 'Identity Thief.'"
The critical drubbing continued in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, where Joe Morgenstern made the movie sound about as much fun as having your pin number stolen. Morgenstern faulted the raunchy comedy's script and sitcom-thin premise for squandering McCarthy's formidable talents.
"Melissa McCarthy stole big chunks of a great show in the 2011 'Bridesmaids': She was Megan, the bridesmaid of formidable girth and unstoppable id," Morgenstern writes. "On the strength of that sensational comic turn, she clearly deserved her own starring vehicle. But no one—neither the star nor her audience—deserves 'Identity Thief,' the comedy equivalent of mud-wrestling without the mud."
Betsy Sharkey was far kinder. The Los Angeles Times critic acknowledged that the script was a "mess," but said Bateman and McCarthy's chemistry lifted the material out of the rubbish pile.
"'Identity Thief' is a larcenous bit of funny business," Sharkey writes. "It probably should be locked up for its crimes and misdemeanors against moviemaking. But its stars, Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, steal so many laughs from such improbable places that the bumps in this revenge/road trip farce can be mostly forgiven, though not forgotten."