Alien-acid queen, movie-crit staple and star of the infamous 1970 flop Myra Breckinridge Rex Reed describes Identity Thief star Melissa McCarthy as "tractor-sized," "humongous" and a "female hippo" in his Observer review of Seth Gordon's probable hit, which opens this weekend. These words are uncivil and the product of an intolerant mindset that's a huge problem in our culture. No one deserves to be referred to as such, especially not in such a public forum. Rex Reed is an asshole.
That said, he creeps up on a point toward the end of his review when he writes that McCarthy "has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success." That's a hyperbolic summary (she's devoted her career, actually, to being funny), but it does touch on a huge problem with Identity Thief: The premise of so many of the film's jokes is that McCarthy is fat and isn't that hilarious? The film's shitty attempts to elicit laughter include her wheezing and being easily outrun when she attempts to escape Jason Bateman's character on foot, a sex scene predicated on how outrageous and nauseating it is for fat people to fuck (Bateman's character hugs himself in an adjacent bathroom for comfort) and several sight gags in which McCarthy's character's absurd sense of style is exacerbated by her proportions. The movie's poster pictures her sipping on a giant cup of obesity-causing soda. Identity Thief feebly attempts to redeem itself by giving McCarthy's titular, sociopathic character a sad past and by making her over at one point, which is supposed to hit like a revelation: Overweight people can be attractive.
That McCarthy participated in all of this is a shame. Maybe the roles she is offered all somehow reference and mock her weight. Even Bridesmaids, an actual good movie that won her near-universal acclaim, contains jokes about how ridiculous her lust is for the air marshal she sits next to. This and much of Identity Thief (which also includes a lot of gags based on the hilarity of possible femininity in men) is the kind of shit that should have died with Shelley Winters' character in The Poseidon Adventure. Transcend, McCarthy, transcend. Rex Reed said unnecessarily cruel things about this actress' appearance, but then again, so does Identity Thief.
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