‘The Heat’ Review
That’s what ‘Arrested Development’ star Tony Hale shouts from the back of Melissa McCarthy‘s broken down jalopy of a police car as she goes through the motions of an uninteresting chase sequence.
“Hoo boy,” I mutter. “We’re in for another ‘Identity Thief‘ here” – a movie where physical comedy and riff-heavy music cues will have to suffice instead of any real wit. But something happens about 10 minutes into ‘The Heat,’ the latest comedy from ‘Bridesmaids’ director Paul Feig. McCarthy’s Detective Mullins loudly and brashly bursts into a room and meets Sandra Bullock‘s Special Agent Ashburn.
The chemical reaction is instantaneous. McCarthy and Bullock, both naturally funny people, feed off one another and crackle as one of the best comedy pairings since John Cleese and Michael Palin. ‘The Heat’ is a decent movie; McCarthy and Bullock are outstanding.
Plotwise, it’s barely worth getting into. There’s a secret drug lord in Boston and our mismatched pair have to take him down. Feig knows well-enough that few will care a whit about any sort of thin blue line yarn. The hunt for the top thug is an excuse/opportunity to string together robust set pieces from two genuinely gifted performers. Even the sequences that don’t work (and some do fall flat) have solid zings. There are belly laugh at regular intervals, most of them sprung from effects-free verbal sparring.
Without question the biggest triumph is Bullock’s Ashburn. It’s no knock against McCarthy, but Ashburn is a fascinating and unusual spin on a well-worn character. She’s part by-the-book, top of her class G-Man, but also a bit of an unaware schlemiel. Among her strange running gags is constantly walking in the wrong direction, but not showing a crack in her armor when corrected. What’s best is that you never quite know if she even cares that she appears a little spaced-out to others. You aren’t able to get 100% into her head, and that makes it hilarious, even more so as she acts as our eyes onto McCarthy’s anarchic world.
As for McCarthy, she in peak Tasmanian Devil form. Foul-mouthed and boisterous but clever as hell. There’s a scene where she just shreds her police chief with obscenity that is absolutely sublime. ‘The Heat’ gets double mileage because Bullock’s reaction isn’t that of the typical straight man, she’s a doofus in her own right.
Alas, ‘The Heat’ has its problems. For starters, it’s a 117-minute movie and it should be 90 minutes. Comedy has rules. The rule of three. Words starting with K. And the length of feature films. Paul Feig fell in love with his footage (and Lord knows he should pack it all in for the DVD release), but a comedy over 90 minutes really, really doesn’t work.
Unfortunately, it’s a bunch of plot gumming up the works – even with minimal lip service there’s junk about finding the bad guy that’s unenthralling (plus an elaborate sequence on a dance floor that really fails to come together). There are also a number of artless transitions with lame music edited over them with lines like, “We’re the heat!” spoken without irony.
Nevertheless, there is far more that’s good than bad. I loved every minute of these very funny women at one another’s throats. I even ended up caring about them a little bit. They soon realize that they both have natural police skills that compliment one another, and only by working together can they excel. Frankly, it’s the same exact movie as ‘Monsters University,’ with book-smart Bullock as Mike Wazowski and larger-than-life McCarthy as Sully. It’s also no less cartoony than the Pixar film, but instead of collegiate games and frat brothers there are dirtbag Irish families and drunks at the bar. I don’t know what that means to my maturity level, but I prefer this version.‘The Heat’ opens in theaters on June 28.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, Badass Digest and StarTrek.com.