The characters are not people, but rough drafts of simplistic character-traits, and the actors (game as they all are) cannot create something out of nothing.
I made a mistake this week. I followed a link from a discussion among reputable movie critics to a showbiz gossip blog that I usually find too sleazy to visit. There I once again found all manner of bilious items that creeped me out and reminded me why I shouldn't go there. One of them insulted a late, internationally renowned film critic for choosing, on his deathbed, a Howard Hawks western as his favorite movie over another title the gossip prefers. (No doubt the latter feels entitled to express an opinion about what your last meal should be, too.) Another post included the observation that Vince Vaughn "needs to lose 30 pounds. He appeared to be at the tipping point during the 'Couples Retreat' press junket."
Then I remembered something about this guy, Jeffrey Wells: He's mainly known for his obsession with man-fat. Sure enough, that post was followed by this:
I got into a scuffle this morning with... reader "Bob Violence" over a remark I made about Vince Vaughn needing to lose 30 pounds. Violence took the remark as another expression of what he and others regard as a longstanding HE prejudice against people of girth. As this incorrect and fat-headed observation keeps coming up, I thought I'd try to damper it down.
I've never said there's anything inherently distastteful about fat people per se. Ever. Millions of people are simply built that way through genetic inheritance. What I've said is that there's something inherently gross about morbidly obese people.
OK. Cleared that up. But, no, he continues:
One look at Vaughn's appearance at the 'Couples Retreat' junket and you thought, "Jesus Christ, this guy needs to lay off the pizza and the pasta and work out more." He's not pulling in the big bucks in order to play motor-mouthed water buffaloes -- he's being paid the big bucks to play hyper, motor-mouthed, ESPN-loving, video-game-playing guys who are fit and semi-attractive enough to pair up with women like Jennifer Aniston ("The Break-Up"), Isla Fisher ("The Wedding Crashers") and Malin Akerman ("Couples Retreat"). [...]
Large-boned, barrel-chested, man-boob guys hook up with perky, small-framed, button-chested women all the time in real life, but flatulent wildebeests generally don't do as well in this department.
By this point I'm feeling a little queasy, but this kind of "I never said..." stuff is what Google was invented for. I enter the search terms "Jeffrey Wells" + fat (or fatties, or obese, or man-boobs). Thousands of results. Here are a few samples:
Segel is an obviously bright guy with moderately appealing features, but he also has a chunky, blemished ass and little white man-boobs, and he could definitely use a little treadmill and stairmaster time and a serious cutback program regarding pasta, Frito scoop chips, Ben & Jerry's and Fatburger takeout. I don't relate to this shit at all, I was muttering to myself. [...]
Taking [the] place [of leading men types like Matt Damon, Adrien Brody or Brad Pitt] are guys who look like real guys, which means almost never slender or buffed, and frequently chunky, overweight or obese. And usually with roundish faces with half-hearted beard growth, hair on their backs, man-boobs with tit hairs, blemishes, and always horribly dressed -- open-collared plaid dress shirts, low-thread-count T-shirts with lame-ass slogans or promotions on the chest, long shorts and sandals (or flip-flops), monkey feet, unpedicured toenails. (March 12, 2008)
On "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" again:
... a lazy comedy about a witty but basically morose man with a big chubby ass and fleshy-milky man-boobs. (April 7, 2008)
On "Couples Retreat" again:
A lot of man-boobs in this thing, which is always cause for concern if you share my psychology. (July 2, 2009)
The only way I would buy her being with Bridges long-term would be if they were both alcoholics. But she's not so I don't. Either way Bridges has bigger tits. (November 13, 2009)
On "Jabbas" in general:
Getting on on Air France 777 now (1:03 pm), having missed the 10:15 am flight. (Don't ask.) Before every flight, I cross myself and ask God Almighty not to seat me next to a morbidly obese person. There are at least two whales in line right now, and I'm feeling a very slight apprehension about this. There are thousands of people in Paris who look well-fed or stocky or fat, but I've seen no Jabbas. You might expect otherwise in a foodie city like Paris, but nope.
Update: No fatties but Doug Liman is on my plane.... (May 30, 2008)
Announcing the death of writer/director John Hughes:
'80s comedy dynamo John Hughes, who allegedly "didn't take care of himself" and "had bad eating habits, like that of a child," according to a guy in the Hollywood comedy community, died on a Manhattan street this morning. Of a heart attack. (August 6, 2009)
On the late Brittany Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack:
He looks relatively young (in his mid 30s?) but is obviously a food monster. (He looks like Oliver Platt on a binge.) Why, you ask, would Murphy have gotten a lip job at the tender age of 32? Why would they pose for PDA photos at LAX? You can feel the ick. (December 20, 2009)
On fat as physical manifestation of character flaws:
To me fatties have always been kind of chuckly, but there's something deeply unfunny about Jabbas. For centuries corpulence has been regarded as a sign of jolliness, indulgence, mischievousness or a little sadness, which makes it natural and easy to laugh at fat guys (John Candy, John Belushi, etc.). But morbidly obsese types are generally seen (whether people want to admit it or not) as people with a major problem -- undisciplined lardbuckets, avatars of sloth. I've noticed, by the way, that Ethan Suplee is no longer m.o. but merely fat. Good work, dude... keep it up. Word is he got a staple job. (October 24, 2006)
On animated fatties:
With Universal's "Despicable Me" (7.9.10), Hollywood has produced another mainstream animated feature with another morbidly obese boy in a prominent role. (Or in the trailer, at least.) This follows the precedent begun by "Up"'s "Russell" character, a morbidly obese young boy scout voiced by Jordan Nagai.
Meaning that once again Hollywood is presenting obesity as a normal and accepted adolescent condition, certainly as far as American culture is concerned. Let's imagine that instead of one out of three American kids being obese or overweight they were instead hardcore heroin users. If this was the case would a mainstream animated feature show a typical American family kid stumbling around and getting off and scratching his face and eating candy bars? I doubt it. (July 21, 2009)
And so on. What fuels this obsession? Concern for others' health and well-being? Strong feelings about proper masculine aesthetics? You figure it out. I'm done.
Captain's log: eight fifth graders, one adult, one James Cameron movie.
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