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Rex Reed Responds to Criticism Over 'Identity Thief' Review

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by Matt Singer
February 11, 2013 12:20 PM
18 Comments
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"Identity Thief."

Hating the new comedy "Identity Thief" is one thing; a lot of critics hate this movie (its D+ average on the Criticwire Network is one of the lowest in the site's brief history). But hating its star, Melissa McCarthy, and going out of your way to ridicule her weight, is another. In his review of "Identity Thief" for The New York Observer, film critic Rex Reed did exactly that, calling McCarthy a "tractor-sized" "humongous" "female hippo" and "a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success."

Reed's review has drawn controversy from the moment it was published last week, and it hasn't died down yet -- it even became a topic of conversation on The Today ShowThrough it all, Reed himself has remained silent; I reached out to him for comment on Friday and got no response, but earlier today he finally addressed the review on WOR 710 AM with Mark Simone, who introduced Reed as "the greatest living film critic" before letting him speak his mind about the controversy.

Reed certainly didn't apologize to McCarthy or anyone else, asserting that his review is "constitutionally protected, so there's nothing anybody can do" to stop him, and blaming the outrage on "the big publicity machine called Universal Pictures" who have organized people to attack him out of their "desire to sell tickets to a bad movie." He also took credit for "Identity Thief"'s big weekend at the box office ("That's what sold the tickets") and insisted that he cares deeply about obesity-related health issues:

"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."

At various points during the interview, Reed forgot the names of both "Identity Thief" and Melissa McCarthy -- although he did pay her one compliment, calling her "very classy" for remaining silent about the whole kerfuffle. 

I haven't seen "Identity Thief." I can't tell you to what extent the movie makes jokes about McCarthy's weight. But, I don't know, to me it feels like calling a woman a tractor-sized hippo is not exactly the best way to show your intense concern about America's obesity crisis. And if you really object to Hollywood using obesity as a comic talking point, maybe don't make jokes about a woman's weight in your review. Maybe I'm just sensitive.

Read more of "Declined: In 'Identity Thief,' Bateman's Bankable Billing Can't Lift This Flick Out of the Red."

[H/T The Futurist]

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18 Comments

  • sydney klaman | June 6, 2013 1:22 AMReply

    i thinck rex sucks.tipical hollywood typem set bullshit.he needs to resign
    melssa is buetiful.and tailetd ,he should pack sand

  • Elle | March 4, 2013 12:57 PMReply

    Reed is correct that McCarthy is making a career out of being loud and obese. However, his crude wayof expressing it in his review was not helpful to his point. His explanation in THIS article is much more intelligent that the words in his movie review. Fat to the point of medical risk ISN'T funny and making it the subject of humor obsures its seriousnes as a medical issue.

  • SJS | February 16, 2013 9:54 PMReply

    According to his wikipedia page - In February 2000, Reed was arrested for shoplifting after leaving a Tower Records, in Manhattan, with CDs by Mel Tormé, Peggy Lee, and Carmen McRae in his jacket pockets. Reed, who had just purchased two other CDs, says he forgot about the other three CDs and his offer to pay for them was refused. The charges were later dropped. And he hates a movie called "Identity Theft"...

  • Bill | February 15, 2013 10:02 PMReply

    Totally agree with Rex! Take her off the screen. Not impressed with her acting or comedy. It's because of her I wouldn't spend my money on the movie and have changed my T.V. veiwing habit on monday nights.

  • t | June 28, 2013 10:50 AM

    Why aren't obese male stars being criticised in the same way? Let's face it, Reed just wants to take a potshots at a successful woman whose appearance doesn't conform the Hollywood standard. If he genuinely cared about helping people - including his friends - lose weight, he wouldn't be referring to them as hippos.

  • Tim | February 14, 2013 11:41 PMReply

    He's right, of course. This woman is just another example of bottom of the barrel exploitation that passes as entertainment these days.

    So, that makes it OK for Rex, to comment on her weight. Big deal. Judge her from an actress point of view, seriously.

  • twist | February 14, 2013 3:02 PMReply

    He's right, of course. This woman is just another example of bottom of the barrel exploitation that passes as entertainment these days.

  • Bill | February 14, 2013 8:51 AMReply

    The funny thing is that Melissa McCarthy can loose weight Rex Reed will always be a shallow, arrogant idiot. He' s just a used-up 74-year old queen.

  • Mer | February 13, 2013 2:04 AMReply

    Melissa McCarthy has class for not addressing this issue. Rex Reed is an idiot and no diet can take that away!!!!

  • Kathy | February 12, 2013 1:29 PMReply

    Rex Reed is a moron! I have seen Identity Thief and it is the funniest film I have seen since Whoopi Goldberg was doing films. I see a lot of movies. Very few of them make me laugh. What Mr. Reed fails to see is that fat or thin, Melissa McCarthy is FUNNY.

  • elle | February 12, 2013 11:46 AMReply

    I think that Rex Reed should retire. He is obviously not in a professional frame of mind. He is in his later years and doesn't understand the way that life works. Bully's pick on others because of their own self-consciousness, and professionals critique movies with the proper frame of mind. If you want to work, you need to be a professional not drag 1930s chauvanism into it. This is 2013.

  • Judy | February 11, 2013 5:17 PMReply

    Rex Reed is from the old school of film critics, I remember him from when I was very young. If he wants to give a review he should get up to date with the time. I remember when Rex was very good looking. But look at him now. Yes, Melissa is over weight but so what that's her business and she seems to be getting great parts in movies. So Rex Reed get with the times and forget about the past.

  • Danny | February 11, 2013 2:59 PMReply

    Rex Reed isn't lying and he's right Melissa McCarthy is famous for being obese and obnoxious she's famous for being fat. The audience is laughing AT McCarthy not with her. Good for Reed for sticking to his guns and calling Hollywood out on their bullshit.

  • Kathy | February 12, 2013 1:28 PM

    You're wrong, Danny. We are laughing with her. Whether she is fat or not makes no difference. Did people in the past ask whether Jackie Gleason was funny?

  • Katy Kern | February 11, 2013 1:52 PMReply

    Chris Farley, John Belushi, John Candy...just to name a few over-weight actors who have graced the silver screen. Yes, they are all dead and most due to their heaviness/health related issues (and drug use), but did Rex Reed ever go out of his way to point out their obese factor as one of the problems of any of their movies? I really want to know. Because I DOUBT IT!

    As a reviewer myself, I am appalled at the name-calling he used to describe the actress or character in IDENTITY THIEF; and I find it utterly misogynistic and poor critiquing if pointing that detail out as reason the film was not so well received by him. In my opinion, he is then allowing too many personal feelings to cloud his judgement.

    I say, retire Rex, perhaps you'll have the time then to help all those overweight people who desperately will want your help now.

    Katy

  • Brian | February 11, 2013 1:07 PMReply

    Further proof of Reed's ignorance is his misunderstanding of constitutionally protected speech. People routinely cite the 1st Amendment every time there is a public outcry over private speech - problem is the 1st A only protects against governmental restrictions on speech. Reed's publication would be free to fire him over these comments, should they wish, as long as they are privately owned. Reed has the right to say this and be a jerk if he wishes because nothing he said is unlawful, but this isn't a constitutional issue. Last time I checked, public backlash over mean spirited statements is far from government promulgation of restricted speech laws.

  • Brian | February 11, 2013 1:03 PMReply

    Further proof of Reed's ignorance is his misunderstanding of constitutionally protected speech. People routinely cite the 1st Amendment every time there is public outcry over statements. Problem is the 1st A only protects governmental restrictions on speech. Reed's publication is free to fire him over these comments, if they wished, assuming the publication is privately owned. Reed has a right to say this and be an ass if he chooses because nothing he said is unlawful, but this isn't a constitutional issue. Last time I checked, the public criticizing jerks is far from government promulgation of restrictive speech laws.

  • kdringg | February 11, 2013 12:47 PMReply

    The movie makes a lot of jokes about her weight, even she does but what's not getting mention is the several scenes in the movie where she is LAUGHED AT by extras in the movie. Check that, SNEERED at by people like hairdressers and a bartender for being fat. That cruel, ridicule is given a pass as everyone focuses on Reed's comments. I find the spreading acceptance of ridicule (Apatow I am looking right at you) to be worse as society coarsens more and more towards its fellow human being, the path is open for all kinds of nasty things down the road.

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