The Heat (2013) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Heat (2013)

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Bad and beautifulAndrew INDIFFERENCE BannerBefore deciding to rent The Heat, you need to answer one question. How much do you like Sandra Bullock? If you've been a die-hard Bullock fan since she guided that bus to safety and cheered when she won her Oscar then The Heat is likely to be one of your favorite movies for the year.

I don't share that level of appreciation. Bullock has never been an actress that held any particular appeal for me. The role that won her the Oscar came with it a performance so broad and obvious that I'm still shocked she appealed to so many for so long. I also can't forget that The Blindside came after so many dreadful comedies like Miss Congeniality, its sequel, Forces of Nature, and All About Steve. She's nothing if a good sport, picking up her Worst Actress Razzie the same season she nabbed an Oscar, but talent and humility don't always go together.

So if you're stuck watching The Heat and are not a Bullock fan it's time to give praise to the comedic heft that Melissa McCarthy brings to the film. I've loved McCarthy's work since her sweet and hilarious turn on television in Gilmore Girls, and enjoy her attempts at doing something different with each role she takes. Her crass turn in Bridesmaids led to her annoying and clingy character in Identity Thief, and now her hilarious turn as a tough cop in The Heat. She's performing with a lot more depth than just being funny, and succeeds in The Heat while Bullock fails by reading the material and playing her character straight. Considering the goofballs that they're surrounded by, this is the correct choice.

A good script can't help more of the same Bullock awkward humor.

A good script can't help more of the same Bullock awkward humor.

The Heat does deserve some credit for being one of the only female buddy cop movies in existence. We had Two Guns earlier this year as well as the farcical 21 Jump Street last year, and it's nice to see Hollywood stretching its reach even if it's just a bit. Bullock and McCarthy fit into their roles easily. The former is Sarah Ashburn, a by-the-book Federal Agent with a spotless career and the inclination to brag about it at any possible opportunity, the latter, Shannon Mullins, a street-smart officer who has a lot of pride for her neighborhood and the constitution for a lot of whiskey. It's the sort of casting that is so perfect it jumps straight from the idea box to the screen.

But instead of starting with the idea and ending with Bullock and McCarthy floundering onscreen with no other material, screenwriter Katie Dippold fills out the periphery with a ton of excellent characters and one-liners. My favorite is Shannon's ragged Captain played by Biff Tannen himself, Thomas F. Wilson. He puts just the right amount of exasperation in his voice after Shannon rants about his manhood and whimpers out, “I have a five-year old son who calls me grandpa.” His ease and hilarious delivery might have something to do with his relationship to director Paul Feig (the two worked together on Freaks and Geeks), but there is barely a scene that goes by without a good line like that.

Feig still isn't the most stylistically gifted of directors, but knows how to assemble the right parts and make them work. The most hilarious scene pokes fun at the way female cops are always required to get sexy to solve a case. Sarah and Shannon hit the dance floor, followed by a man who looks like an shut-in accountant ready to party, as Bullock clumsily dances for their target and McCarthy plays offensive tackle to get rid of everyone around their mark. This is when The Heat is at its best, playing up the absurdity of their investigation against Bullock's clumsiness and McCarthy's prideful aggression.

McCarthy takes another role that could have been unbearable and makes the character really funny.

McCarthy takes another role that could have been unbearable and makes the character really funny.

Those moments are so good that I wish some of the other fat was cut away from the screenplay. There are a lot of scenes given over to exploring the childhoods and families, or lack thereof, of Sarah and Shannon. Compared to the effortlessly hilarious moments that top The Heat, these come off as the sort of audience hand-holding that makes sure that our sympathies are with these two and not against them. Bullock's back story is the more ham-fisted of the two, but McCarthy's is saddled with her eight annoying family members who are just as loud and argumentative as she is. That's another idea that probably looked good on paper, but it's a whole lot of setup for no punchline and an added dramatic device that isn't needed.

Most of what I've written so far is positive, glowing even, but I have to get back to the question at the heart of The Heat. As funny as McCarthy is, Bullock is another motormouth who's also meek. That's a weird combination to get used to as she's up against the similarly verbose McCarthy and is also supposed to be a bit arrogant at the same time. I don't like Bullock often, but I usually hate her in these kinds of roles where she's expected to showcase all these disparate personality traits and pull them together with her charm.

Another key word there is usually. The Heat entertained me a lot more than I was expecting it to, it just isn't going to make Bullock fans out of non believers. Too much of the interplay between Bullock and McCarthy fell flat, but there's enough going on with the dialogue and great supporting characters that I can't disown the film. Any comedy with an ominous albino has something worth laughing with.

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Tail - The HeatThe Heat (2013)

Directed by Paul Feig.
Screenplay written by Katie Dippold.
Starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.

Posted by Andrew

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