Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: The Heat

The formula works.  The mismatched partners / buddy comedy routine is as tried and true as any cinematic paradigm.  You could dedicate a whole blog with hundreds of posts to waxing poetic about the countless films that have successfully worked this theme.  And while this brand of narrative has occasionally featured women, this sphere has for the most part been dominated by male protagonists.  In a lot of ways, Bridesmaids has come to represent a bit of game changer for these types of buddy films as it not only proved that female driven buddy romps could win big at the box office, but also that you could do it with a bit of raunchy flair.  The Heat starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy definitely falls into this bucket of filmmaking, but whether the creative team pulls it off well is highly debatable.

The plot of the movie thrusts an arrogant know-it-all of an FBI agent in Sandra Bullock into a rocky partnership with a hate-it-all police detective (Melissa McCarthy) to track down a mysterious crime lord who is taking over the streets of Boston.  As the two work the case, they find that their contrasting styles complement one another both personally and professionally and help them to realize their respective faults and shortcomings.

If you are thinking that maybe you’ve seen Sandra Bullock play this kind of character before (Miss Congeniality 2), then you are right.  And if the trailer has you thinking that Melissa McCarthy has played this exact role in pretty much every movie she’s ever been in, then you would definitely not be wrong. Therein lies one of the main issues plaguing this film; director Paul Feig has put together a film featuring two actors who are essentially reprising characters they’ve done before in a kind of narrative that has been done to death.  Simply put, nothing feels new about this movie. 

If that were the only issue with the movie, then it would still be fairly entertaining, but unfortunately the editing ensures that film simply will not come together as it should. On far too many occasions, scenes run far too long only to  accommodate some self-indulgent rambling ad lib, rather than focus on storytelling and pacing.  Sure, there are some dead-on huge laugh-out-loud moments in this movie, but the space between these gags are far too long and feel extremely flat.  That little attention is paid to the details of the film's nonsensical plots twists normally would feel incredibly damaging,, but ultimately is relegated to an afterthought because of the dull uneven nature of ninety-percent of the movie.

Like most out there, I thought Bridesmaids was entertaining and a good chunk of that is attributed to Melissa McCarthy.  However, her more recent work left me convinced that her five minutes had expired.  I have to admit though that in The Heat, she proves that perhaps the expiration date on her brand of humor has not yet come to pass.  Sure, the editing does her no favors as she is guilty of some flat jokes, but she offsets those misses by delivering the bulk of the laugh out loud moments.   That she can also turn a scene from obscene to heart-felt on the turn of the dime is purely a bonus.  McCarthy for so many reasons is the only redeeming element in this movie.

As for her partner in crime fighting, Sandra Bullock, she is bland and uninteresting in this film from star to finish.  There is never a moment where I feel like Bullock wants to be in this any scene or that she cares about the finished product.  Cruise control, mailing it in, laying down, paycheck project – whatever cliché, analogy, or idiom you can think of to project utter apathy absolutely applies to her performance.  This is always inexcusable but especially egregious when you get top billing.

As for the work of the rest of the cast, it’s the typical collective performance you would expect to find in an action/comedy of this ilk.  Michael Rapaport, Jane Curtin, Thomas Wilson, and Michael McDonald are seasoned actors and hit all their marks in unremarkable but satisfactory fashion.  Ditto for Marlon Wayans, who is affable enough in a supporting role, but contributes little-to-none in the comedy department.  Ultimately though, the work of the supporting players is rendered inconsequential by the missteps of both director and star.  Nothing any supporting player could lend to a film could overcome such obstacles.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you love Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, buddy comedies, cop comedies, or movies set in Boston.  Heck, it doesn’t even matter if you are related to anyone in the cast.  There is no reason to see this in the cinema.  It’s not worth the money, the cost of concessions, the gas used to drive to the cinema, et al.  At best, it’s a week night rental.  The movie will make you laugh heartily during the most random of scenes, but the mediocrity of the rest of the film will ensure that those comedic moments will quickly be forgotten.

Standout Performance:  Joey McIntyre.  For all the New Kids on the Block fans out there!


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