Of the many qualities I adore about Melissa McCarthy as a comedian and as a dramatic actor, the best is how fully she gives herself to every character she plays. There’s more than just bravery in her willingness to go all out; there’s also generosity, whether it’s putting the moves on an air marshal in Bridesmaids, downing a bottle of salad dressing on SNL, or, now, brazenly scamming her way through life in Identity Thief. In her first starring role in a feature comedy, McCarthy plays Diana, a resourceful, big-haired Florida grifter who leads the good life — at least by tacky big-haired standards — while running up a huge tab under a fake identity. And she hits a jackpot with the assets of one Sandy Bigelow Patterson, a sober-minded Colorado family man.
The story is about as subtle as a Florida theme park. Finding his life in shambles and tracing the destruction to her door, Sandy (benefiting from a full dose of Bateman’s patented contained exasperation) heads south to drag Diana to justice. And that’s where everything I said earlier about McCarthy meets its first challenge: There are no pauses in this hectic madcappery, not for a minute. So there’s barely an opportunity for the star to modulate her energy. Even during more tender moments, she’s working her butt off. The fault, I think, isn’t in our stars but in the script, running up a huge comedy tab the likable players can’t pay off. B-