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Film critic calls this actress 'tractor-sized' and a 'female hippo': Over the line?

Jason Bateman, background, and Melissa McCarthy in a scene from Identity Thief.

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Melissa McCarthy: 1, Rex Reed: 0.

Reed, the New York Observer's film critic, may have trashed McCarthy for her performance in the new comedy Identity Thief last week. But with the film opening at No. 1 this weekend, recording $36.6-million (U.S.) in ticket sales, it seems the actress is getting the last laugh.

In case you missed it, Reed slammed the movie in his review, and took a few hard swipes at McCarthy in particular, describing her as "cacophonous, tractor-sized," and a "female hippo."

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"Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) is a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success. Poor Jason Bateman," Reed wrote, referencing her Identity Thief co-star.

As the Los Angeles Times's Ministry of Gossip reports, readers have balked at Reed's criticisms, deeming them low blows.

Indeed, Reed's is the latest review to raise the question of where the line lies between clever criticism and plain snarkiness.

As writer Russell Smith reported in The Globe, poet and philosophy professor Jan Zwicky recently sparked debate about the merits of nasty reviews, when she argued against using precious space for negative press that could be otherwise used to promote exceptional works.

And earlier last year, The New York Times's Pete Wells had readers divided when he wrote a scathing review of Food Network star Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant, Guy's American Kitchen & Bar. While some gleefully cheered as Wells described a cocktail as resembling "radiator fluid and formaldehyde," and a the toasted marshmallow of a baked Alaska as tasting "like fish," others chided the reviewer for going too far, essentially using a bazooka to shoot at an easy target.

In Reed's case, it seems more readers are defending McCarthy than taking the film critic's side. If personal put-downs are a no-no when it comes to film reviews, ridiculing an actress's weight is an even bigger taboo.

"What a JERK! No one's dress size has anything to do with their acting ability. This guy seriously needs a well-deserved thump on the head," one commenter wrote on the Observer's site.

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"Wow, this is a horrible, misogynist crapfest of a review," another wrote.

What do you think? What's fair game when it comes to reviews?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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