Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Movie Review: The Heat

The Heat
Directed by: Paul Feig.
Written by: Katie Dippold.
Starring: Sandra Bullock (Ashburn), Melissa McCarthy (Mullins), Demian Bichir (Hale), Marlon Wayans (Levy), Michael Rapaport (Jason Mullins), Jane Curtin (Mrs. Mullins), Spoken Reasons (Rojas), Dan Bakkedahl (Craig), Taran Killam (Adam), Michael McDonald (Julian), Tom Wilson (Captain Woods).

Melissa McCarthy seems to be at her best when she’s the least scripted. She was the best thing about Judd Apatow’s This is 40 last year, despite her limited screen time, and as her the extended scene of her over the end credits shows, she seemed to be making it up as she went along, leaving her co-stars laughing as her increasingly insane rant goes off in a million different directions. It’s at moments like these that her immense comic talent is truly at its best. There are moments in The Heat when that side of her comes out – but unfortunately not as many as I would have liked. For the most part, she is shoehorned into a buddy cop comedy alongside Sandra Bullock that simply isn’t up to her level (nor Bullock’s for that matter).

The movie stars McCarthy as Mullins, a Boston PD detective, who takes her job of cleaning up the streets very seriously – so seriously in fact, that she has no problem running people down with her car. That she bears no resemblance to how a cop in the real world would have to operate goes without saying. A drug dealer she has just arrested comes to the attention of the FBI, who thinks he may be the key to a bigger kingpin – so they send in Ashburn (Bullock), to question him – which, of course, infuriates Mullins. Neither of these women play well with others – they do not have, nor want, partners. But for seemingly no other reason than because the screenplay needs them together, they are partnered up on this case to crack this drug ring.

I have to admit, that even now – not long after I watched the film, the details of what the plot of the drug dealers actually is in the movie has already started to grow hazy. It doesn’t really matter though – the movie really isn’t about its crime plot, but rather about putting these two women, who in the time honored tradition of buddy comedies start out hating each other and then grow to become best friends forever, in absurd comic situations. If nothing else, The Heat shows just how much chemistry McCarthy and Bullock have together. Bullock has the “straight” role, something she hasn’t done often before, but she excels at it here. She’s a stick in the mud that needs to loosen up, and let others into her life, or else she’s destined to be alone forever. Because Bullock is so good at playing it straight here, it allows McCarthy to go bat shit insane, which is when she is at her best. The movie gives her more space to run wild than the abysmal Identity Thief did earlier this year, and McCarthy makes the most of it.

Unfortunately, other than the two leads, there really is nothing else in the movie that is at all interesting. A talented supporting cast – including Oscar nominee Demian Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Jane Curtain, Spoken Reasons (with a name like that, he has to be a rapper, right? Or perhaps a slam poet – do they still have those?), Michael Rapaport, Dan Bakkedahl and Taran Killam (slowly becoming the most consistent performer on SNL every week) – are pretty much wasted. They get steamrolled by Bullock and McCarthy. And Paul Feig, a colleague of Judd Apatow shares Apatow’s inability to cut his movie to an appropriate length. Like his last film, Bridesmaids (which I quite liked – but not as much as many did), his film goes on far too long, and grows slack. By the end, it has worn out its welcome.

I liked parts of The Heat more than the whole. Bullock and McCarthy are as good as they can be in the movie – and it is refreshing not only to see a mainstream, buddy cop movie center around two women, but also have neither one need a man to make them complete. They’re both single – and neither is given a love interest (although the running gag of McCarthy’s past lovers is pretty amusing) – and neither need one. But in the end, a movie like The Heat rises and falls on just how funny it is – when you’re movie is basically just a clothesline in which to hang jokes, the jokes better be funny. Some are, most aren’t. The movie probably goes 1-for-3 in terms of good jokes to bad – which may be good in baseball, but in a movie, that’s a whole lot of jokes falling flat.

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