Jason Bateman, child actor, has an incredibly extensive imdb for someone I presumed disappeared between late 80s TV show "Valerie" (later, The Hogan Family) and 2003's "Arrested Development", although most of his roles in that period were in TV movies and short-lived TV series like "Simon" and "George & Leo" and "Some of My Best Friends" that I do not even vaguely remember. But after the brilliance that was Arrested Development, Bateman has become something of a leading man, starring in Juno, Hancock, Couples Retreat, Horrible Bosses, Up in the Air, The Switch, The Change-Up, and his latest Identity Thief, which opened over the weekend. Of course, other than Juno and Up in the Air (both of which he was only a supporting star in), these movies haven't been particularly high quality or even low quality, although many made a lot of money and Bateman appears to now be making a lot of money, all from the "success" of Arrested Development. And since I am obsessed with all things Arrested Development and give a free pass to pretty much anything any alumnus of the show does (with the exception of whatever the hell that show Will Arnett does with Christina Applegate that I've tried to watch a few times and can never make it through a full episode), I have seen several of the Bateman second career starring movies and again, with the exception of Juno and Up in the Air, there hasn't been a whole lot of good. Or funny. I mean, most of the premises were bad in the first place -- The Change-Up in particular -- but Horrible Bosses starred Bateman, Charlie from Always Sunny, and Jason Sudeikas from SNL and yet was only mildly amusing. Bateman seems like a funny guy -- I heard him in an extended interview with Howard Stern this week and on the Daily Show -- but who is picking these roles for him? Again, he is making a lot of money, and he will hopefully be back in great form in the new Arrested Development series premiering in May, but he told Howard that he originally turned down the part in Juno (largely because he had just had a new baby but also because he wasn't blown away with the script) and it was only when the actor that signed on pulled out a few weeks before filming that he was called up again, given a piece of the back end, and agreed to join the cast (largely because his new baby was crying all the time and keeping him up at night and he thought "well, I could just go to Vancouver and film a movie for 3 weeks") So yeah. Not exactly a lot of wise decisions in film selection.
Which brings us to Identity Thief, a movie that he was attached to from early on (he's listed as a producer) but the original script had a male co-star in the role that Melissa McCarthy plays. They were searching for an actor to play that role when Bateman saw an advanced screener for Bridesmaids, called the other producers and said "we need to get McCarthy for this movie before she blows up" (at least according to the story he told Howard). And that was a brilliant move. She is wonderful in Identity Thief and very nearly turns a flimsy script into a passable movie. But without her, this movie would have been horrible -- it's just not funny enough without her work -- so again, it brings me back to "wait, he actually read this script and thought enough of it to attach himself as a producer to get it made?" Really? There is a little Midnight Run to it, but by "little", I mean same sort of premise. There is a skip tracer involved, in a decent role given to Robert Patrick from T2 (who looks really old here -- hope that's just makeup) but that subplot and the much, much worse one involving drug dealers chasing McCarthy's character are really unnecessary contrivances developed to advance the plot, not any natural development of a story, which I guess I could overlook if any of their scenes were funny, but they're not. Only Bateman and McCarthy, in their comic timing and pairing, deliver any laughs, and likely if I hadn't seen it in a packed theater with an appreciative and laughing audience, I probably wouldn't have laughed much either. The movie got rather scathing reviews and I can see why. It also made a ton of money this weekend and I can see why too. It does have some funny moments. And it's not a bad "check your brain at the door and laugh" film. And McCarthy is really great, she really does come close to saving the film and I actually enjoyed my time watching it. Perhaps because of the three long island iced teas before I went into the theater. But again, it brings us back to the career of Jason Bateman. If this movie makes a lot of money, he makes a lot of money and he gets to keep starring in mildly amusing comedies like Identity Thief and Horrible Bosses. And better him than someone who didn't play Michael Bluth in one of the greatest comedies in the history of television. But yeah. I kind of wish he would fire the person picking his scripts. Unless of course, it's him. It's tough to fire yourself. He couldn't even fire Gob despite many, many tries (god I can't wait for May).