The reasons to avoid "Identify Thief" are legion. But even more damning than the stunning waste of talent and paper-thin message is one simple truth: It's just not funny.

"Thief" plays like a continual missed punch line, with actors forced to double down on the same stale material, as if trying to force a laugh out of an uncooperative audience.

Thanks in part to his feminine name, docile businessman Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) becomes the latest unsuspecting victim of arguably the world's least-intimidating identity thief (Melissa McCarthy). The episode puts Sandy's new job prospects in limbo -- his credit is a mess -- ruining his desired move from everyday man to corporate executive. But when Sandy discovers his foe, he launches a cross-country trek to salvage his good name and bring the perpetrator to justice. Wouldn't you know it, she's far more formidable -- and crazy -- than he imagined.

On screen
'Identity Thief'
1.5 out of 4 stars
Stars: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, John Cho and Jon Favreau
Director: Seth Gordon
Rated: R for sexual content and language
Running time: 112 minutes

Within minutes, you can guess how the relationship between the duo evolves, which is made all the more frustrating by a "twist" ending. Ironically, the movie's humorous bits are during its quietest moments, allowing the clever Bateman and McCarthy to rift off one another with an improv touch.

Still, it's a rare blemish for McCarthy, catapulted into the Hollywood limelight with her unforgettable antics in "Bridesmaids." Her latest effort feels like that performance on steroids, giving the audience little reason to care for her, particularly when director Seth Gordon attempts to sweep aside her cartoonish facade.

It's nearly two hours of physical comedy that simultaneously asks the audience to feel sorry for our often-scorned leading lady because of her appearance while exploiting her weight for cheap laughs.

Cameos by Eric Stonestreet ("Modern Family") and Ellie Kemper ("The Office") provide amusing portraits of the oddballs lining dive bars and diners, but they play like distractions from a story on autopilot. Gordon mined similar territory with his sticking-it-to-the-man message in 2011's "Horrible Bosses." One can't help but wish for the inventiveness of his quirky documentary "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters," chronicling arcade game fanatics looking to break world records.

Alas, with "Identity Thief," we have a tedious retread that manages to dilute the very qualities that made its participants appealing in the first place.