HOLLYWOOD - Calling Clint Eastwood's brilliant but utterly depressing boxing movie, Million Dollar Baby, "a shot to the shorts, morally," radio talk show host and former ESPN broadcaster Rush Limbaugh is leading a crusade against the "evil, insidious message the film conveys."
What has Limbaugh's boxer shorts in a twist is the movie's ending. Indeed, Limbaugh and other critics have taken out a full-page ad in The New York Times to sucker punch that ending: "Save your money, folks. She dies in the end. Eastwood's character kills her. He'll burn in hell for that."
In addition to the usual screeching suspects-Pat Robertson, Richard Land, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and a dozen Roman Catholic cardinals nobody but their parole boards has ever heard of-the ad was signed by current Oscar nominees Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as Russell Crowe, who has his own boxing movie coming out this summer.
Not to put too blunt a point on it, Eastwood's character, boxing trainer Frankie Dunn, does "kill" Hilary Swank's character, Maggie Fitzgerald-but only because she asks him to. Fitzgerald, you see, was terminally paralyzed from the neck down in a fight, a title fight, the kind of fight the main character in most boxing movies wins after getting up off the canvas fifteen times. Maggie, who would sooner die than spend the rest of her life as a talking head, asks Frankie Dunn to throw in the towel for her. (We won't reveal how Dunn kills Maggie because we don't want to spoil the movie's ending.)
Limbaugh, who is terminally paralyzed from the neck up, claims that Million Dollar Baby will lead to a rash of assisted suicides-worse yet, it will give people the mistaken notion they have the right to control their own lives. "Only God, George Bush, and states with the death penalty have the right to decide when people die," said Limbaugh.
"She should have taken her punishment like a man," he continued on his Excellence in Broadcasting radio show yesterday, the twelfth consecutive show he has devoted to criticizing Million Dollar Baby, which has been nominated for seven Oscars.
"There are a lot worse things than lying on your back getting bed sores and having your limbs amputated one by one," said Limbaugh. "Besides, there are pain killers available from any illegal domestic that will make you think you're fit enough to freak, fight, or run a foot race."
In related news, Donovan McNabb took time out from preparing for the Super Bowl to send Clint Eastwood a congratulatory fax. "Don't sweat the Big Mouth," wrote McNabb. "Last year he said I wasn't good enough to play quarterback because I'm black. Look where I am now. That dude's the kiss of life. Your Oscar's in the bag."