Team Melissa just got a little stronger! In the wake of New York Observer movie reviewer Rex Reed's scathing attack on Identity Thief star Melissa McCarthy -- whom he calls "tractor-sized" and a "screeching humongous creep" -- many fans have rushed to the actress' defense. Among them is veteran film critic Richard Roeper, of the Chicago Sun-Times (and, formerly, At the Movies With Ebert and Roeper).
Roeper spoke to Us Weekly exclusively about Reed's harsh assessment of McCarthy's size and talent, which he says crosses a line. "It's fair to comment on any actor's appearance if it's relevant to the character the actor is playing, the performance, and how that actor's physical traits add to or detract from the performance," he tells Us. "But this just smacks of mean-spirited name-calling in lieu of genuine criticism."
He adds: "Has Rex Reed used similar terminology to describe late great comics such as Chris Farley, John Candy, or John Belushi, or actors such as John Goodman and Kevin James?"
In fact, Reed's comments about the Mike & Molly star seem oddly personal and irrelevant to the actual movie (which he also slammed as a "chunk of junk"). At various points in the write-up, he refers to the actress as co-star Jason Bateman's "female hippo" and "a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success."
Roeper takes particular issue with this last insult. "Yes, Melissa's physical appearance is part of her comedic repertoire. Her own characters -- including her character in Identity Thief -- are sometimes painfully aware of their looks," he explains to Us. "This can lead to comedy gold -- and to some poignant dramatic moments."
"I couldn't disagree more with Reed's assertion [that] McCarthy is a gimmick comedian who relies on her weight for laughs," he continues. "She's a gifted performer who happens to look like much of America. So what? The same could be said of Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, and a hundred other male 'everyman' actors."
Paul Feig, who directed McCarthy in Bridesmaids, echoes Roeper's sentiments about the star's considerable abilities -- though with a bit more attitude. In a tweet posted to his account on Feb. 8, he wrote: "For his catty and school bully name-calling of the supremely talented Melissa McCarthy, I cordially invite Mr. Rex Reed to go f--k himself."