The Good: A few lines, Most of the performances
The Bad: Painfully predictable and formulaic, The middle is exceptionally boring, Not as funny as it could have been.
The Basics: The Heat starts fine, dies for the long middle and finishes strong, but is nowhere near as good as one might hope.
This is not Melissa McCarthy’s year. For sure, she has had some box office success with films like Identity Thief (reviewed here!), but with The Heat and her appearance in The Hangover, Part III (reviewed here!), it has become clear that this year, Melissa McCarthy has been pigeonholed into a terrible niche. If you want an utterly unlikable, gruff character who will say anything, cast Melissa McCarthy. With The Heat, she has buried the last remnants of her kind, smart, and entirely likable character of Sookie from Gilmore Girls (reviewed here!). The problem, for fans of Melissa McCarthy’s works, is that the actress is not gaining anything from the exchange. For sure, we see some more range from McCarthy, but when you participate in three crapfests in a row, it is hard to say your cache is growing.
And I was looking forward to The Heat.
The Heat is another Summer Blockbuster Season entry that illustrates how desperately comedies falter when they try to compete against the big-budget special effects films. In fact, moments after Melissa McCarthy’s character, Mullins, begins climbing through closely parked police cars to get out of her own ride and I found myself hoping desperately that the film’s best moments might not have all been included in the trailer, I began cursing CBS/Paramount Studios. Paramount had absolutely nothing to do with this piece of crap film, but after his second appearance on screen, Demian Bichir began to seem remarkably familiar (ironically, I did not place him from his role on Weeds). Instead, Bichir sounded exactly like Ricardo Montalban and the more frequently he appeared on screen, the more I got pissed at Paramount. Here was the absolute, undeniably perfect actor to play Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness (reviewed here!) (yeah, universe reboot wouldn’t have made Khan younger or more white J.J. Abrams!) and that the studio did not back up a dump truck of cash to make sure he got the role is utterly perplexing.
The fact that I spent any time at all cursing Paramount for an utterly unrelated project to this one is a testament to the weakness of the content in The Heat.
The Heat is an entirely formulaic and predictable “Odd Couple” style buddy cop movie. It’s 21 Jump Street (reviewed here!) with female protagonists and no need to allude to any (however distant) source material. And it is just plain not good.
Ashburn is an FBI agent who is exceptionally smart and a gifted crime fighter who is nevertheless not respected by her peers (especially when she shows up the Bureau’s crime dog). When her boss, Hale, is promoted, Ashburn wants his job and he lets her know that the promotion is only available to her if she can illustrate better that she can work well with others. Ashburn is sent to the Boston Field Office to help deal with the drug squad there, specifically to find and arrest the major supplier to Boston. Already in Boston is the foul-mouthed street cop, Mullins, who is busy pursuing her own leads and working to clean up the streets on her own. Motivated by a desire to keep her brother, who she put away for his drug-related crimes, on the straight and narrow when he gets out of prison, Mullins harasses local johns and drug dealers.
When Ashburn interrogates one of Mullins’s suspects, Rojas, it enrages Mullins and the two get off to a very rocky start. Mullins steals one of Ashburn’s files to learn what the FBI is doing in “her town” and soon the two are competing for leads in bringing down the Boston drug cartel. In the process, they butt heads with drug dealers and DEA agents, as well as Mullins’s family. While Ashburn is willing to put Mullins’s family in jeopardy, Mullins tries to do whatever she can on her own, leading to more conflict before the two grudgingly discover that they need one another to achieve their goals.
The Heat is so formulaic that it is astonishing that screenwriter Katie Dippold is a seasoned scriptwriter and over the age of twenty-one. Seriously, The Heat seems to be a blend of so predictable and so sloppy that it feels more like a college writing class reject than a well-constructed work from a professional that production companies and major studios would ever compete for. The film begins funny enough, though it is plagued by the specter of its trailer which had truncated versions of all the film’s best early jokes. The middle, though, is a painfully boring, plot-heavy with obligatory character moments so blandly presented neither the writer nor director Paul Feig even tries to hide the fact that they are presenting characterization entirely through straightforward exposition. After a painful and bloody scene foreshadowed through Ashburn watching a program that included an emergency tracheotomy, The Heat ends well as an action movie, but it does so long after the viewer has stopped caring.
To its credit, what The Heat lacks in terms of genuinely interesting characters – though Marlon Wayans steals all of his scenes as the FBI agent with enough pride to stand up to Asburn – it almost makes up for in genius casting. Dippold used to write for MadTV and she uses her contacts Michael McDonald and Taran Killam exceptionally well. With a supporting cast that includes Jane Curtain (not a role she’s going to move to the top of her resume!), Damian Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Nathan Corddry, Tom Wilson (whose only truly significant scene was one of the first scenes leaked from the film for promotional purposes), Tony Hale, and Kaitlin Olson, The Heat assembles a killer cast, even if most of them are not given the opportunity to shine or present anything one has not already seen from them before.
Sandra Bullock is fine as Ashburn, though she is playing yet another straightlaced, “good girl” type professional character. By the time she gets around to swearing, the viewer has largely lost interest in her performance and the transformation was more predictable than audacious. She and Melissa McCarthy play off one another well, though their best moments are in incongruent scenes that have nothing to do with the rest of the flick (most notably the bar scene where they dance very well with one another).
As for Melissa McCarthy, the role of Mullins is one of her worst. McCarthy plays the part well, but either the lame, obvious script or the timid direction leave McCarthy with little to do. She presents the character of Mullins well, but she does so in a way that does not make the viewer connect with her. We don’t care what happens to her or, honestly, about her character’s struggle before now. In fact, it is a hard thing to be indifferent to a character McCarthy is playing, but for the third time this year, she plays the part, but the part is beneath her.
That, truly, is the death knell of The Heat.
For other works with Marlon Wayans, please check out my reviews of:
G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra
Requiem For A Dream
For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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