There's real potential in this premise for a ripping screwball comedy anchored by two likeable actors, but the filmmakers simply don't trust the material, stirring in constant elements of action mayhem that don't work at all. Pointless car chases, over-violent fight scenes, murderous henchmen, a ruthless bounty hunter and even a full-on heist: all of these things feel like irrelevant distractions for a movie that's essentially just a remake of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with an identity-theft twist.
Bateman plays the androgynously named Sandy Patterson, a Denver accountant struggling to make ends meet when he's offered a great new job with a colleague (Cho) that will better help him support his pregnant wife (Peet) and their two precocious daughters. Then suddenly everything is jeopardised when someone steals his identity and, for some inexplicable reason, he has to go to Florida and bring the culprit back to Denver himself. The con artist turns out to be Diana (McCarthy), who's a lot feistier than Sandy expects. And as they begin the long road trip to Colorado, he discovers that she's also being chased by two mob goons (Harris and Rodriguez) and a bounty hunter (Patrick).
Plenty of films manage to mix violence and comedy effectively, but director Gordon and writer Mazin seem to flail at every turn, wildly veering from corny sentimentality to ugly brutality, punctuated by humour that only occasionally makes us laugh. And at nearly two hours, the film feels far too long even though the pace is frenetic. The various set pieces simply don't fit in with the basic premise, leaving the plot in tatters. All of these nasty villains chasing Diana are utterly meaningless, and many of the action sequences feel both inexplicable and implausible.
Fortunately, Bateman and McCarthy are terrific, able to have fun even in the most painfully underwritten scenes. They find ways to give the characters a hint of subtext even in the middle of the lame sex-comedy sequence, and they continually undermine the shallow moralising that infuses every scene. But in the end, their characters are so compromised that it becomes insulting (McCarthy is styled with frumpy bad taste only until the filmmakers decide we should like her). In the end, the actors maintain their dignity through the wave of heart-warming sap that engulfs them. But only just.
Run time: 111 mins
In Theaters: Friday 8th February 2013
Box Office USA: $134.5M
Box Office Worldwide: $174M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Stuber Productions, Aggregate Films, DumbDumb
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 19%
Fresh: 31 Rotten: 130
IMDB: 5.7 / 10
Director: Seth Gordon
Screenwriter: Craig Mazin
Starring: Jason Bateman as Sandy Patterson, Melissa McCarthy as Diana, Jon Favreau as Harold Cornish, Amanda Peet as Trish Patterson, T.I. as Julian, Génesis Rodríguez as Marisol, Morris Chestnut as Detective Reilly, John Cho as Daniel Casey, Robert Patrick as Skiptracer, Eric Stonestreet as Big Chuck, Jonathan Banks as Paul, Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Jessie Patterson, Ryan Gaul as Bartender, Mary-Charles Jones as Franny Patterson, Brett Baker as Alec