'Identity Thief' Review Calls Melissa McCarthy A 'Hippo'; How Offensive Are Rex Reed's Comments?

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Rex Reed is the lead reviewer for a well-respected publication, but his review of “Identity Thief” is controversial for all the wrong reasons. Reed does not not bash a beloved movie but instead focuses on Melissa McCarthy's weight and appearance throughout the review.

Rex Reed is the lead movie critic for the New York Observer, a respected publication that has been in existence since 1987. Reed is not a young blogger looking to make a name for himself, having been a host on “At The Movies,” after Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert left the program. Reed has also been featured in documentaries and is a well-known voice among film critics.

That's not to say his tenure as a film critic has been without incident. Most infamously, Reed was the origin of that long-standing rumor that Jack Palance misread the name for Best Supporting Actress during the Oscars, mistakenly giving the award to Marissa Tomei. Reed was also ridiculed for his insensitivity during his review of “Oldboy” by the Village Voice.

It seems as though Reed's insensitivity goes beyond just cultural boundaries as is evident in his review of “Identity Thief”, a new movie starring Jason Bateman and McCarthy. McCarthy is one of the few female comics that have been successful in the television world, starring in “Mike and Molly,” and in the film world, starring in “Bridesmaids.” McCarthy is not your typical actress, and she is not a skinny woman, but that does not matter when she gives great performances, is genuinely funny and earned rave reviews for her “Saturday Night Live” hosting gig in 2011.

When debating a film's merits, the weight of an actor, or actress, should not be a mark against the film. While Reed dislikes the film, he is not alone as the film sits at 28 percent rotten on Rotten Tomatoes, but Reed singles out McCarthy's weight as a major problem with the film. The first few sentences by Reed are fine -- he sets up that he believes the film is “junk” and gives a brief summary of the plot. When describing McCarthy, he calls her “cacophonous, tractor-sized Melissa McCarthy.” Bateman's appearance gets no such critical attention. In the next sentence, he juxtaposes the “innocent” victim to the “humongous creep on a marathon shopping spree on the other side of the country.”

It's bad enough to focus on an individual's weight in regard to a film's merit, but Reed now adds value judgments to the analysis. The good individual gets no physical description, while the bad individual is fat and loud and a creep. It's a subtle thing, and, while it's true in a sense, Bateman plays the identity theft victim, while McCarthy is the thief, so the relationship is not set up to highlight physical appearance. It's an odd-couple movie, similar to a buddy cop setup where the hard-boiled detective gets saddled with the goofy new recruit. The humor is established by how different the two people are, not by how many pounds apart they are.

Reed continues and describes a scene that has been featured in trailers for “Identity Thief,” saying, “The snafus in the worst road movie since “The Guilt Trip” plunge Mr. Bateman and his female hippo into a motel with only a double bed, a grotesque sex scene with a pickled reprobate she picks up in a bar who demands a threesome.”

Reed sums up his opinion on McCarthy, saying she “is a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.” Reed does praise Bateman plenty immediately after that, again juxtaposing value judgments based on appearance. It could also be pointed out that McCarthy has been actively working for more than a decade, starring in "Gilmore Girls" between 2000 and 2007 and other shows before that, as well as a stint as a stand-up comedian.

Naturally, the comment section for Reed's review have been anything but kind toward Reed's choice of words or his focus on McCarthy's weight. The Observer has not commented, and this review will not get Reed into any sort of real trouble.

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