So, a couple of things happened over the weekend. A major snowstorm nailed the east coast of the country, “Identity Thief” opened to huge numbers making it the best R-rated comedy bow of all time, and the largely irrelevant and already cantankerous Rex Reed penned a scathing review of the movie. Not just scathing, but also bizarrely personal, the critic took dead aim at Melissa McCarthy calling the actress “tractor-sized,” “humongous,” “female hippo” and “a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.” As FilmDrunk noted near the end of last year, the critic has an Armond White-esque tendency to say outrageous things, but this seemed to well over the line, and the internet and media responded swiftly to denounce Reed. Well, you can’t keep a cranky, seventy-four year old critic down.
But first, let’s get some perspective: “Identity Thief” is a terrible, terrible movie. But it has zero to do with McCarthy’s weight and more to do with a thin premise, executed with the belief that if the actress rehashes her “Bridesmaids” routine but less honed, and more outrageous, it will equal comedy gold. And there are countless more ways in which “Identity Thief” is spectacularly awful (a story that could’ve knocked out at least two subplots, logic and plot gaps that defy comprehension, dead pacing and more). But turning to personal attacks, again, is just cheap and low. And given an opportunity to respond on WOR710 AM with Mark Simone, instead of making a simply apology and getting on with his life, Reed stoked the flames.
Saying that his jerky comments are “constitutionally protected, so there’s nothing anybody can do,” Reed dragged out a conspiracy theory claiming that Universal Pictures was using his review to leverage moviegoers to buy tickets. Uh, okay. He then launched into an explanatoin that was a bizarre mix of health advocacy, a lame and hard-to-buy assertion that his comments weren’t about McCarthy but about her character in the film and more. Here’s what he said:
“My point was that I object to using health issues like obesity as comic talking points… [McCarthy] is basing her career on being obnoxious and being overweight. And I don’t think that’s funny. I have too many friends that have died of obesity-related illnesses, heart problems and diabetes, and I have actually lost friends to this. I have helped people try to lose weight, and I don’t find this to be the subject of a lot of humor. I have a perfect right to say that. My review was really more about the movie and about the character she plays in the movie than it is about her. I don’t care how much she weighs. I don’t care how much Melissa McCarthy weighs. She wants to be fat? Mark, she’s crying all the way to the bank.”
This is probably the closest we’ll get to an actual apology from Reed, and it won’t be the last time he writes something that’s simply bizarre and perhaps mean. If anything, it’s likely the most press Reed has received in a while, and hopefully by next week, we can go back to not reading his reviews at all. [IndieWire]