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Harsh critic crossed the line with digs at McCarthy’s size

Updated: February 11, 2013 8:10AM

Making jokes about our weight is like making jokes about our family. You can laugh at yourself from dawn ’til dusk — but if an outsider is making the jokes, look out.

That’s the mentality that saw Chris Christie happily poking fun at his own corpulence on the “Late Show with David Letterman”— even pulling out a pastry as a visual punch line — but blowing a gasket when a former White House physician told CNN she was worried about Christie’s risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Christie called Dr. Connie Mariano “just another hack who wants five minutes on TV,” and personally called Mariano to berate her.

So there was Christie on Letterman’s show, so obese he can’t properly fit into Dave’s guest chair, publicly acknowledging his own physician is worried about his health, but he snaps when a medical expert on TV expresses something that’s pretty obvious about the good governor’s health concerns?

Maybe it’s not a double standard, but it’s certainly the standard issue behavior when it comes to this type of humor. I’ll take shots at myself all day long. But how dare you chime in with your unsolicited opinions!

Who you callin’ a hippo?

Another controversy erupted when critic Rex Reed of the New York Observer tore into Melissa McCarthy’s appearance in his scathing review of “Identity Thief.”

Reed hardly stands alone in ripping the film. It scored a lousy 24 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes aggregate site, and deservedly so. It’s a terrible road movie no more sophisticated than a Shemp-era “Three Stooges” short.

But Reed’s criticism of McCarthy struck basically the whole Internet as over the top.

Reed called McCarthy “tractor-sized,” a “female hippo” and “a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.”

In the Twitterverse in which we live, it didn’t take long for Reed’s comments to reverberate far beyond his usual audience. Countless bloggers and commenters rushed to McCarthy’s defense. Paul Feig, who directed McCarthy in “Bridesmaids,” tweeted, “For his catty and school bully name-calling of the supremely talented Melissa McCarthy, I cordially invite Mr. Rex Reed to go f--- himself,” while Judd Apatow tweeted, “I thought [Reed] died in 1978. Seriously. Is he the same guy or is it like Dear Abbey and someone else took over using the same name?”

When Us Weekly asked me for a quick comment on the story, I didn’t realize it was going to be the story, with the headline, “Melissa McCarthy ‘Identity Thief’ Review is ‘Mean-Spirited,’ says Richard Roeper.”

As I said in the interview and as I said when there was a dustup when Howard Stern commented on Gabourey Sidibe’s career prospects as an overweight actress, it’s absolutely legitimate to comment on an actor’s appearance if it’s relevant to the character the actor is playing, the performance or how that actor’s physical traits add to or detract from the performance.” Just recently I took some heat for saying the great Sally Field looked too old to be playing Abraham Lincoln’s wife — but I think there’s a clear and obvious difference between saying an actor looks too old for a role and personally attacking an actor.

Melissa McCarthy is a terrifically talented actress. She has a unique way with a one-liner, and she can turn even a small glorified cameo in “This Is 40” into a burst of comedic glory. When given a dramatic monologue in “Identity Thief,” she knocked that out of the park as well.

Of course McCarthy’s appearance is part of her repertoire, just as Charlize Theron’s physical gifts are part of her repertoire. But Reed’s review struck a nerve because it was so gratuitously catty and sexist. Has Reed employed such terms throughout his career to disparage John Belushi, John Candy, Chris Farley, Kevin James, John Goodman and dozens of other male actors who often used their size as comedic fodder?

Regardless of the reviews and the side controversy (or perhaps even fueled a little by all the talk about Reed’s review), “Identity Thief” won the weekend with a strong $36.6 million take at the box office — even more impressive given that some theaters in the Northeast were closed due to the blizzard known as Nemo.

McCarthy’s star just got brighter. No doubt the success of “Identity Thief” will lead to more starring roles for the Plainfield native. Reed will just have to live with that.

In the meantime, if you want to see an example of truly horrid, amateurish acting, check out a film from 1970 called “Myra Breckenridge.” The title character is played by Rex Reed, and if they were giving out Razzies back then, he would have been a lock.

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