Identity Thief is awful, inexcusable, insulting

Identity-Thief-posterHere’s my review of the “comedy” Identity Thief starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy: It’s a shit pile and is horrible at everything. Don’t see it.

Now that that’s done, let’s talk about Melissa McCarthy and the humor of fatness.

In his review of Identity Thief, film critic and professional asshole Rex Reed referred to McCarthy with a series of offensive and derogatory phrases relating to her weight, which totally undermined any valid points he may have been making about the film’s quality (which he did conclude was awful and unwatchable, and asshole or not, he wasn’t wrong about that). You can read a summary of that kerfuffle here.

First and foremost, Reed can go fuck himself for making totally unnecessary personal attacks on an actress who, regardless of what she looks like—because this would be equally offensive if he’d attacked, say, Keira Knightley for having a flat chest—was being paid to portray a character in a certain way as determined by a script, a director, and a group of producers who thought the result would be humorous to audiences. I don’t want to talk about Rex Reed and what a tremendous dipshit he is. I want to talk about that cabal of filmmakers who thought this would be funny in the first place. I want to delve into the actors who participated in this film even though their families do not appear to have been kidnapped and held under threat of violence to ensure their cooperation. I want to discuss the audience that drove this mountain of dinosaur dung to over $37 million at the box office.


I sat through Identity Thief—on the studio’s dime, thank god, because if I’d paid for it I would have been forced to stab myself with a pencil—and gaped as everyone around me laughed at theIdentity Thief barrage of fat jokes and terribly timed sex gags. I was, as far as I could tell, the only person not enjoying the movie. And it’s not that I don’t think that fat can be funny. I happen to think that anything, in the right hands, can be funny and you have to look no further than Rebel Wilson for proof of this. Her “Fat Amy” character in Pitch Perfect is a prime example that fat jokes can be mined for solid, positive humor.

The thing about Wilson, though, is that she was in control of every joke. The humor derived not from pointing and laughing at a fat person for being fat, but from her flipping the script on the kind of person who would usually do exactly that. Zach Galifianakis mines a similar space on “Between Two Ferns”, responding to jokes about his weight with a deadpan, “That’s hurtful,” or, “You know I’ve been trying to lose weight”. We laugh not because these people are fat, but because they highlight the vapidity of the fat joke—we laugh at the resulting discomfort of the person who tried to laugh at their fatness. They hold a mirror to our own societal shallowness and we laugh because we recognize the cheapness of the fat joke, because we get the subversion of the expected punchline.


Identity Thief, however, is not being subversive. It’s not holding a mirror up to anything. It makes no attempt to say something about how we perceive one another based on looks, how we talk to and interact with one another because of that, or how our wrong assumption of someone because they look a certain way can lead to comedic gold when they turn out to be so much more than what we initially expected. Identity Thief is just pointing and laughing at fat people. It’s very mean-spirited, cruel even, and a whole lot of people went along with it. I have never in my life been so disappointed in McCarthy (whom I’ve liked since her Gilmore Girls days) and Bateman for participating in this junk.

Identity-TheftMelissa McCarthy is the butt of every joke in Identity Thief and all because she happens to be overweight. Fat people fall down! Haha! Fat people stuff their faces constantly! Gross! Fat people having sex! Ew! That’s the whole movie in a nutshell. There is nothing more to the humor than pointing and laughing at fat people for being fat. Every gag is based on the idea that fat is disgusting, that a fat person’s sexuality is inherently revolting (and, because Identity Thief is racing itself straight to the bottom of the barrel, must also be deviant), and that fat people exist only as objects of scorn and derision for the thinner people around them. I am not endorsing being fat as a healthy lifestyle, but there are fat people in the world, and just because they’re fat doesn’t mean they deserve to be the target for this kind of vicious mockery, just like a gay person doesn’t deserve to be the object of scorn or derision just for being gay.

Identity Thief isn’t just stupid and shitty and a waste of money. It’s cruel, deliberately and repeatedly cruel. And what the fuck is wrong with us, that we embraced this and made this okay?

15 thoughts on “Identity Thief is awful, inexcusable, insulting

  1. Shannon

    I appreciate you writing this. I’ve been getting increasingly uncomfortable with the blatant prejudice against fat people that has been escalating in media and pop culture. And I’m especially sad that someone of McCarthy’s talents would think so little of herself as to participate in and promote that kind of thinking.

  2. Mandy

    I pride myself on having good taste in movies. I can count on one hand the number times I have wanted to walk out of a movie. In fact, I don’t believe I can even think of a movie I’ve seen in the theater that I have wanted to leave. But for some dumbass reason, I got roped into paying $10 for this monstrosity of a “movie”. 10 minutes into it, I wanted to leave. I knew by that point that there was no way it could work or be redeemed in any way. It pissed me off that I had to sit through it and ruined my night. I cannot figure out what Bateman and McCarthy were thinking when they made this movie!

  3. Amy

    I love Jason Bateman, but his movie choices have been questionable. When was the last time he was in a good movie? The Swtch was wretched and demeaning to women (um, yeah, every boob in that movie is CGI. Seriously. A friend worked post on it. I mean kudos for Leslie Mann for not having to actually go topless, but why does every breast have to be perfect in this movie? To make women feel inferior?) Horrible Bosses was passable. Lets not even talk about Couples Retreat. Paul was okay, but definitely the weakest of Pegg’s movies. What’s the deal? Does he just not say no? Or does he not get offered decent fare?

    1. I think he just doesn’t say no. It is understandable, to an extent, given that he had some lean years there, but at what point does personal pride assert itself, you know?

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  5. toodles2you

    Without even reading your whole article, I was done with this movie when Melissa McCarthy got hit across the back with an accoustic guitar in the trailer. I was like “Ok…….so the message is, its ok to violently assault a woman if she is fat/unattractive. Screw you Hollywood” I mean, Melissa is zaftig, there is no denying that, but she isnt unnattractive. But this movie went out of their way to dress her badly, style her hair badly, bad make up. I guess a woman isnt sympathetic as a character if she is ugly/fat?

    Screw you Hollywood. And Im mad at Melissa for even taking this gig. She can do better and I hope the check was worth it.

  6. Jen

    Everyone is intitled to their own opinion but this movie was #1 at the box office all week and with the two new movies that hit Friday, it dropped to #3 with a domestic total of $54 million. Explain that.

  7. Cher

    The most outrageous thing about this movie is the fact that it relies entirely on Melissa McCarthy for good acting and comedy and she pulls it off (Jason Bateman please, send your check back). The story is beyond weak (a CGI snake?).

    I was shocked to find out she has that much talent, in Mike and Molly she’s not showing 10% of it. She is a comedy genius.

    About comedy and fatness, the movie wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Consistently in tv and movies, fat people are associated with stupidity and disability for comedy (ex Kevin in the Office, Jerry in Parks and Rec, boo Parks and rec for this one when it went out of his way to do positive comedy with women).

    In Identity Thief, MMC’s character is the smart, badass one of the bunch, she’s a survivor.
    I won’t go into physical comedy and her style in the movie, I’ll just say she looked great (for bad looks, see Bridesmaids).

    The bad news is actresses in general and women in comedy in particular don’t get the quality scripts they deserve. Who will write for them? and who will produce them?

    The good news is, MMC is working on it:

    [god why? a sequel?

  8. Kristen

    WHAT? Sorry but there is no way this film is as bad as you say. I get your issue with the fat jokes but i saw it in a 3/4 full theater and we all laughed and found it amusing. It’s no worse than any other slap stick comedy and at least Bateman and Melissa are likeable leads. Seriously, save your disdain for the turkeys that really exist. This ws your run of the mill comedy.

    How did you not laugh at ‘Dawn Budgie’???? Hilarious!

  9. You have issues 😦 You must be overweight yourself or we didn’t watch the same movie. She wasn’t the butt of every joke for being fat but for being a cartoon. Her over styled hair and makeup and ridiculous clothes was what made her the object of ridicule – not her weight. The jokes you think were directed at her because of weight I bet would have been funny to you had a male actor played the part (as was originally the plan) or if a slim actress was in the role. At the end when she has a make over and walks into the bar – no one is laughing and Bateman’s character says “you’re beautiful” not “you would be beautiful if you lost weight” you can tell he has a little crush of admiration for her at this point which is rare in film – the fat chick never gets that admiration – would have been great if he then took her to bed but wasn’t that kind of movie – that will be on the horizon though as the brainwashed American culture who has accepted blindly the body image ideals sold as fact by middle aged gay men who find the emaciated female form (as reminiscent of a man sans breasts and hips) the only tolerable model finally wake up and say NO MORE – there is beauty in all shapes, sizes, colors and ages that we can’t see because we were told only the young, tall leggy blonde was the true beautiful ideal. We are idiots – all of us !

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  11. Get over yourself! This, flat out, was a funny, enjoyable movie in which the lead actress, who is obviously comfortable with herself, plays the role perfectly. People who are digging in and trying to discover the issues behind the humor poking fun at affliction need to look at themselves or lighten up. It was a comedy and not meant to be clean or politically correct. No issues with the black and latino playing the gangbanger working in the crime syndicate? Of course not, that stereotype is perfectly acceptable and makes sense….double standards all abound are acceptable too I guess as long as they don’t apply or offend you personally. I always look at the guy in the room who is blaming everyone else and ask him how he believes himself to be in the right. If you were the only one in the theatre not laughing, again, maybe you need to look at yourself, your insecurities, your issues with the film…or write Melissa McArthy and ask her if she had issues with the role…which she probably helped create. If I cared enough to waste my time with anything else you may have to say, I would search your reviews for a Jenny McCarthy role and see if you have any complaints facing the opposite, sexual exploitation of women….guessing not!

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