‘The Heat’ (2013) Movie Review

The Heat movie review
Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in The Heat
Photo: 20th Century Fox

It’s a weird feeling, watching a comedy and everyone around you is laughing much more than you are. Fortunately, The Heat isn’t one of those comedies I felt any measure of overwhelming displeasure for, but I’m at a loss as to what was making everyone laugh so hard. When you describe a scene in which Melissa McCarthy stops a drug dealer from running away by hitting him in the back with a watermelon I guess it sounds a little funnier than it seemed while watching it, but is watermelon tossing really that funny?

The Heat serves as the female answer to Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell‘s The Other Guys, putting a gender twist on the buddy cop formula so familiarly found in the ’80s with films such as 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon.

The story focuses on FBI Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and Boston detective Shannon Mullins (McCarthy), two polar opposites working together to track down a Boston-based drug cartel leader prone to chopping his victims into little pieces. Sarah is the straight-laced, by-the-book federal agent while Shannon is a down-in-the-dirt cop whose idea of a uniform is a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt she turns inside out instead of washing.

As any story of this nature goes, the two initially butt heads, but soon sort out their differences and work together to take down the bad guy.

Fact is, where The Heat has more in common with The Other Guys, than any of the classic buddy cop comedies of the ’80s, is the story is largely unimportant. Like The Other Guys the film is going to succeed or fail on the shoulders of its characters and comedy alone and unfortunately it can;t live up to the comparison.

Sarah’s stick-in-the-mud nature will be confronted with Shannon’s blunt-force, unapologetic approach to dealing with people. This involves a variety of variations and uses of the word “fuck” and insults hurled as weapons. Occasionally she hits the mark, most of the time I just wasn’t laughing.

Bullock’s character is largely a sounding board for McCarthy’s profanity laced insults for the first two-thirds of the movie and it isn’t until she gets into the spirit of things that we’re able to take a greater level of enjoyment in her being there. In fact, it’s a testament to “less is more” that while McCarthy can’t seem to get out a sentence without swearing, Bullock’s character reserves a well-timed “mother fucker” for late in the film, reminding us there’s something to the idea of restraint and subtlety over the sledgehammer approach. At the very least, films such as In the Loop and In Bruges taught us to be creative if an abundance of swearing is your thing.

Directed by Paul Fieg (Bridesmaids), The Heat also runs into the same issues virtually any film from the Judd Apatow camp of filmmakers faces, it’s just too long. Coming in at just under two hours there’s a moment where Sarah and Shannon are finally strapping up with an arsenal of weaponry and I couldn’t help but think, This should have happened about 20 minutes ago.

The Heat is at its best in short bursts. When Shannon refers to Sarah’s boss (played by Demián Bichir) as “Puss in Boots” it’s funny. Jane Curtin as Shannon’s middle finger-wielding mother is funny. A Great Dane gets laughs and I found the mere fact Thomas F. Wilson (Biff from the Back to the Future movies) was in it as McCarthy’s captain to be hilarious for some reason. I also thought Marlon Wayans‘ character added a nice touch in the end.

Additionally, Dan Bakkedahl as a misogynistic DEA agent serves as a strange running joke as he becomes Shannon’s favorite target for a myriad of obvious reasons. The misogyny, sure, the other is the fact he’s albino, leading her to believe he’s a villain.

Everything said, The Heat is funny enough you won’t regret renting it, but you need to be pretty hard up for a laugh to pay to see this one in the theater and walk out believing it’s anything better than skirting the edges of mediocre.

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