IDENTITY THIEF (2013): A Flawed & Noxious Review of the Film Examined

Jason Bateman Melissa McCarthy Identity Thief

In the article “Declined: In Identity Thief, Bateman’s Bankable Billing Can’t Lift This Flick Out of the Red,” Rex Reed made strong, disparaging, and unprofessional remarks about the film, Identity Thief, but also about Melissa McCarthy’s physical stature, calling her “hippo” and “tractor-sized.” The film’s writer Craig Mazin and director Seth Gordon were also insulted as he called the film “a chunk of junk” and “how many ways can a grown person lose I.Q. points” while watching the film. These statements are only a few of the critic’s inappropriate and unprofessional comments made about the movie’s actors and screenplay.

According to Boris Trbic, Australian writer and film reviewer for the online publication Senses of Cinema, film criticism is a “working definition”,  an action of reviewing how the film’s story and the plot develops over the allotted time on-screen. Film reviews are designed to inform, persuade or dissuade audiences from viewing a particular film or journalistic work. Online film criticisms are easily accessible variant and can be read almost instantly by anyone from any device. This makes it all the more important for the critic to be factual with: a film’s plot mechanics and machinations (without revealing all the plot details), references to the director’s previous work, and the actors’ onscreen performances. Accurately evaluating a film’s qualities or weaknesses in an easily communicative way will not only come across as clear and concise, but also notable and reliable.

Reed’s statements about McCarthy’s weight garnered immediate responses in the comment section of his review, and this was not surprising. Mark Peranson, editor of Cinema Scope, noted in the article, “Film Criticism After Film Criticism: The J. Hoberman Affair,” that film critics should “buck conventional wisdom and commercial consideration” with their reviews so that the art form of film criticism is not lost. It is easy to write a review about what least matters about a film without taking into account the fundamentals of the film.

It all boils down to film interpretation and analysis. It is the professional responsibility of a film critic to avoid stereotype or cliched when writing film reviews and to maintain a journalistic style of writing, specific to the publication. Film criticism is such a broad field that almost anyone can become a film critic, thereby offering readers a wide range of perspectives on the movies they watch.

Elisa Pezzotta, a freelance teacher of film analysis and film adaptation studies, suggests that even though there is more than one way to write a film review, it is important to note the relationship between film analysis and film criticism. When analyzing a film, it should be easily discernible whether or not it is a proper film analysis/criticism for entertainment or for academic purposes, which are scholarly and a more focused dissection.

Reed’s review lost credibility when he resulted to insults about McCarthy’s weight and career as an actor. Reed abandoned the opportunity to provide The Observer’s readers with a minimum of journalistic quality during his film critique.

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Sandy Hoffman

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