Melissa McCarthy can’t stay the same, and sadly, she just made the biggest mistake of her career. Melissa got a head start in a low-brow sitcom, “Gilmore Girls,” garnered a million fans after her take in “Bridesmaids,” and an even dumber sitcom “Mike and Molly,” and then got lucky with an Oscar nomination for her part in “Bridesmaids.” She won me over for her comic number on SNL. I really fell in love with this cherubic Irish girl from Plainview, Ill. Everybody did.
Now the curse of the Best Supporting Oscar seems to have hit her broadside. In the noxious “Identity Thief,” McCarthy chomps, swills, chews, mugs, waddles and hams up one of the most obnoxious characters ever to smear up the silver screen. Clearly, director Seth Gordon, caught up in adoration, gave her carte blanche to do whatever she liked.
Here, she is something called Diana, a happy-go-lucky dangerous sociopath, whose joy is to steal innocent victims’ credit identities, and without a pimple of guilt, and indeed, with unbridled glee, destroy their lives. She is the female version of Rainn Wilson’s insufferable “Dwight Schrute” on “The Office.”
When we meet Diana, she has already stolen 50 or 60 identities, and is on the phone plotting another caper.
This will involve Sandy Patterson, (“No, it’s not a girl’s name, I was named after Sandy Koufax”) played to the lowest rung on the creative ladder by the likable but banal Jason Bateman.
In this, Hollywood’s worst comedy ever, Bateman’s Patterson aides and abets Diana’s felonies, by being unabashedly stupid.
She calls him at his office and pretends to be a security agency officer out to protect his fragile financial life. He willingly gives her his entire financial portfolio, personal info and social security number.
As this 108-minute leaky trash bag of celluloid garbage flowed out like something from a broken comedy sewer, I couldn’t believe that someone — actually, let’s name them: writers Craif Mazin and Jerry Eeten, and director Seth Gordon — are totally responsible. I won’t name the technicians, camera operators, makeup women, script girl, grips and catering company that fed them, because they are often forced to be a part of dreck like this just to make a living.
Before long, the real Sandy Patterson discovers what’s happening. His life begins to shut down, run on fumes and come to halt. His pregnant wife, a horribly misused Amanda Peet, somehow seems calm and collected, as if it’s just a horrible mistake that will soon be corrected. Probably it’s because the character is a dimwit that refuses to believe that any respectable asylum or penal institution would have released upon the world a crazy, crass, malicious thief like Diana.
The real Sandy, who just got fired from a boring job, has joined up with some colleagues and a friend (John Cho) in a swell partnership, that now, because of Diana, is threatened. Sandy is actually arrested by police who are even dumber than he is. He’s in Colorado, and they really think he’s the one using the card in Miami?
It gets worse: Diana has not only been ripping off innocent folks, she’s been reselling the cards to two drug cartel killers, (Genesis Rodriguez, and rapper T.I.). There is a bounty hunter involved (Robert Patrick, who deserves better) and a mafia boss who orders it all up by cellphone in prison. This is the point where I say nevermind.
Diana will get hers in the end, after a maudlin encounter with Sandy’s cute family.
Oh, did I tell you about the sweaty, bed-breaking sex scene Diana has with something called “Big Chuck” in a seedy hotel room, while Sandy listens from the bathroom, or the way she punches men in the larynx when they try to subdue her?
Spoiler alert: Diana, clearly forced by the film censor board, confesses and goes to prison. Another spoiler: Sandy, the victim, falls in like with her and visits her there.
I still like McCarthy, and know that she will make amends with her fans. She has an upcoming comedy with Sandra Bullock. F. Scott was wrong. There are second chances in life.
J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.