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Film critics, you have been warned: do not mess with our girl Melissa McCarthy! The comedienne, easily one of the funniest and most likable people on the planet, is the subject of a horrifying review by The New York Observer's Rex Reed. Not only does the critic accuse McCarthy of ruining the new comedy Identity Thief, but he refers to her as "humongous," a "female hippo" and "tractor-sized."
"Melissa McCarthy is a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success," Reed writes, bemoaning that "poor Jason Bateman" is "stuck" sharing a screen with her.
Okay, first of all, we understand that comedy is subjective. This guy clearly doesn't crack up whenever McCarthy is onscreen, as we did during Bridesmaids. But while we're on the subject, we'd like to note that McCarthy received an Oscar nomination for that role. She also has two Emmy nods and a win. This is not the resume of a "gimmick comedian."
Now, we're not saying that everything she touches turns to gold. Identity Theft may well turn out to be a not-so-great movie.
But it's the reviewer's descriptions of McCarthy that really get us. He can't stop talking about how awful she is, and here are his two main gripes: she's fat, and she's obnoxious.
Yes, Melissa McCarthy is fat. Don't worry, she knows. But she wasn't trying to be pretty for this role. Actually, it's the opposite: her character's less-than-desirable look took two hours of make-up to achieve. Why is it that Nicole Kidman can put on a prosthetic nose and become a Hollywood heroine, but a funny lady doing the same thing is just being "obnoxious"?
And about that: what's wrong with obnoxious? McCarthy is a character actress, playing a character. Will Ferrell, Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig top a long list of people who mostly play obnoxious characters, because they're funnier that way.
Reed's review reminds us of the recent New York Post review of Girls, which called Lena Dunham's body "blobby" and her character unlovable.
Here's what we're noticing: it makes some people really uncomfortable when actresses play characters who aren't pretty and sweet. It's one thing if it happens in a drama; it's another if they're doing comedy. As women, we're constantly told we need to be attractive, accommodating and nice. Lena Dunham and Melissa McCarthy are not playing by the rules!
And you know what? We're in the middle of a comedy renaissance right now. There's never been a better time for funny people in film or TV, and that is, in large part, because comediennes are refusing to just stand there and look pretty. They don't want to play the girlfriend who shows up in lingerie and says three lines, because that's boring.
Instead, women in comedy are being ambitious. They're being obnoxious. They're not apologizing. Comedy is all about making people uncomfortable and transcending it with laughter. Maybe critics like Rex Reed have forgotten how to laugh. Thankfully, we're pretty sure that Melissa McCarthy is laughing too hard to care.