Melissa McCarthy's latest comedy caper Identity Thief defied poor reviews and blizzard conditions to top the US box office with rather huge takings of $36.6 million during its opening weekend. The movie, about a mild-mannered businessman who travels to Miami to confront a woman who has stolen his identity, is officially the biggest release of the year.

The result seems strange given the bad weather in the US and the fact that Identity Thief is one of the worst reviewed movies of McCarthy's career. Andrew O'Hehir of said, "Considering that it starts out with two distinctive and likable stars and a reasonably promising premise, "Identity Thief" reaches impressive heights of laziness and idiocy." Last week's top movie, the zombie comedy Warm Bodies, fell to number two with $11.5 million takings, while Steven Soderberg's Side Effects - one of the best reviewed movies of the director's career - took $10 million to finish third. Ticket sales were 45 per cent lower than the same three-day period last year, with most of the north-east coast of America buried in heavy snow. "It took such a chunk out of the business. But we can't control Mother Nature," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's head of distribution. Rocco suggested 'Identity Thief' would have taken $40 million if it weren't for the weather.

Rounding out the top five was Jennifer Lawrence's Silver Linings Playbook - which is expected to perform well at the Oscars next month - and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.