|Melissa McCarthy, left, and Sandra Bullock, right|
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Pictures
2013, 117 minutes
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude content and some violence
Review by Joshua Handler
It is amazing what two good performances can do for a really average movie. Without Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock’s fantastic chemistry, The Heat would have ended up being barely better than a movie in the bargain bin. The Heat is a female buddy cop movie directed by Paul Feig, director of the hilarious Bridesmaids. He can certainly get great performances out of his actresses, but is ultimately at the mercy of the script he’s directing. Bridesmaids’ Oscar-nominated screenplay was brilliant, creating memorable characters, outrageous jokes, and good drama. It was also something all to rare in movies today: unpredictable. The Heat’s screenplay was written by Katie Dippold (TV’s Parks and Recreation). She probably could have written this movie in her sleep. It definitely has its fair share of laughs, but the laughs aren’t big ones and the movie follows the formula so closely that it causes more eye rolls than laughs by the end.
While I don’t always like Sandra Bullock’s movies, she is an undeniably talented actress and comedienne. She frequently gives life to clichéd characters and has a commanding screen presence. With her role as the uptight, smart, and motivated cop, Bullock really lets herself go and nails nearly everything. Melissa McCarthy needs better material. Bullock’s isn’t great, but at least it’s respectful. McCarthy is relegated to saying f*** in every sentence and going through fat gag after fat gag. An Oscar-nominee for her over-the-top performance in Bridesmaids, McCarthy is insanely talented. She was one of the reasons Bridesmaids was what it was. She is a force of nature. Her writers just need to realize that she is more than fat and can say more than the word f***. Her screen chemistry with Bullock is surprisingly incredible. They, like the best comedic duos, play off of each other’s strengths and elevate the movie to a level much higher than the script deserves.
It is simply a shame that this movie wasn’t funnier. It could have been great. It has a talented director, two gifted stars, and a fun premise. The formulaic script just ruined much of the fun. As I’ve said before and will say again, comedy writers need to realize that crude doesn’t necessarily mean funny. Crude with brains (i.e. Borat) or crude with heart (Knocked Up) is good. Crude for crude’s sake isn’t normally funny. And where is unpredictability? Where are movies like Tootsie and The 40-Year-Old Virgin? I’ll tell you where they are: they are in arthouse theaters. If you want real comedy with brains, go to the arthouse and see Much Ado About Nothing or Frances Ha. While not unpredictable, they are uncommonly smart. When Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine is released next month, see that. THAT is unpredictable and wonderful.
Overall, The Heat isn’t terrible, but again, I could think of at least a dozen other movies I would recommend going to see over it. Women need better comedic material because a movie like this isn’t worthy of the incredible comediennes out there. My star rating will be higher than you may think it should be due to my multiple written rants and negative tone above, but I did enjoy quite a bit of this movie. I’m simply annoyed with how lazy screenwriters have gotten. Bullock and McCarthy are the only reason this movie is reasonably good.