As I sat down to write a review for this film, I found myself struggling with what angle to take. See, I think movie reviewers take a position on whether or not they like a film, whether or not they would recommend a film, then they find a clever or witty angle to present their position. Granted, I’m not a professional reviewer, although I’d love to be, but for now, I just do this for fun and I have an opinion on just about everything. But, be that as it may, there are a few ways to approach this and I’m not sure which is best. So let’s just get the basics out of the way:
I didn’t like this movie.
OK, having said that, now I need to find the ice breaker, the witty way of presenting my reasons why I didn’t like it. I could go with:
Comedy is more and more a difficult sell, particularly in movies. In my opinion, the last really funny movie (outside of Bridesmaids, which lost me in the last act) was 2010’s The Other Guys. Before that, off the top of my head, I gotta go with Meet The Parents, yes, all the way back in 2000 (note to self: rent Ted). Unlike drama, which reliably has a protagonist who is beset with any number of obstacles he or she must overcome and there is usually an antagonist, be it a person or an event, that is meant to undermine the protagonist, comedy is very subjective. I don’t think anyone in comedy could honestly tell you why something is funny, let alone why something is funny to one person and not another. Comedy is more intimate; I believe comedy usually plays better on the small screen in small doses. Plus, comedy is subject to the changing times, the changing mores of society. What passes for mainstream comedy today most often consists of raunch, filth, shock and so on. Not saying I have a problem with that, but many comedies take the approach that the raunchier and filthier it is, the funnier it is. Not so. Something funny, with the right amount of raunch and filth, can be hilarious. But this movie is far from hilarious.
The Heat stars Sandra Bullock as the straight-laced by the book FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, the Stan Laurel to Melissa McCarthy’s Oliver Hardy; the foul and obnoxious Det. Shannon Mullins. It’s the mismatched cop story you’ve seen a million times except for the absence of Y chromosomes in the two leads. While Melissa McCarthy provides a few laughs, she is proof of what I said earlier: comedy, or rather what passes for comedy today, plays better in small doses. Putting aside the few and far between laughs McCarthy provides, this movie clocks in at 117 minutes, an eternity for a comedy, and McCarthy becomes so over the top obnoxious, I wanted to plug my ears at a certain point. Some of the funny moments are in scenes where she resorts to ad-libs; the funniest scene of the movie involves McCarthy’s character arresting a john, played by Tony Hale (superb on Arrested Development and Veep). What makes it funny (as I attempt to explain humor after saying it can’t be done) is that McCarthy approaches the perp with a charming smile and does her shtick to entrap the guy, but we the audience are in on the joke and we laugh at the poor schmuck who doesn’t realize she’s a cop. Because Hale is so brilliant, the two of them make the scene very funny. But unfortunately, that scene occurs at the very beginning of the movie and it’s the only scene in which Hale appears. And as mentioned, McCarthy’s shtick becomes grating fast, as in a joke that goes on WAY too long about her looking for her precinct captain’s balls.
Inevitably, through an improbable series of events, Ashburn and Mullins team up to take down a Boston drug lord. Sandra Bullock, bless her heart, does her best to move mountains in order to make this movie work. It’s not that she’s not funny, she has sharp comedic timing, but I just couldn’t help feeling bad for her, as the Oscar winner is made to strip off clothing, dance badly and shove a guy’s head in her cleavage (as you watch this scene, remember the filmmakers want you to believe her character is a top notch agent). As she’s made to wrestle the plus size McCarthy through a door. As she’s made to wrestle McCarthy over a cell phone. Are you getting the pattern here? Then there’s the inevitable montage sequence of drunken revelry, where we smash cut between vignettes of the two leads in various supposedly funny activities with the locals at a dive bar. But I give them credit for one thing: the montage doesn’t take place in a kitchen while cooking and dancing as a 60s Motown song plays in the background.
But as I said, one of the secrets of comedy is to know when to get off the stage. Hell, Seinfeld devoted a whole plotline to this concept with the Costanza character, and we all agree that Seinfeld knows a little about comedy, right? 117 minutes, jokes and bits that go way too long, setups and scenes that become repetitive, etc. I mean, how many different times can we see one guy with a gun get the drop on another guy with a gun before it gets boring? And there are really big missed opportunities as well. Take for instance the scene where Mullins introduces Ashburn to her family. Of course, the family members are as loud and obnoxious as she is; but unfortunately, characters that could’ve been funny are grating from jump because we’ve already been subjected to McCarthy for nearly an hour. They do wring some small laughs out of the Bah-ston accent, but at this point in the film, it’s just more annoying characters. Take another scene where the movie decides to take a grisly turn and we get to see an emergency tracheotomy performed. Could’ve been funny, but as this movie does all too often, it goes for forced shock value as opposed to coaxing a laugh. Take yet another scene where Ashburn is stabbed in the leg not once, not twice, but three times. Laughing yet?
You want more unfunny repetition? OK, well, there’s a scene which follows a needless subplot about Mullins’s evidently numerous flings as guys plead with her to take them back. See, it’s supposed to be funny because she’s so fat, yet all these guys want her so bad! Get it? Yeah, maybe the first time, but twice? However, it was cool to see the reunion of McCarthy and real-life husband Ben Falcone (the air marshal from Bridesmaids). But much like the ridiculous subplot, the scene kind of goes nowhere. And then there’s the subplot about a black street dealer who gets arrested not once, but twice, and gets a watermelon thrown at him. Seriously. No, I didn’t make that up.
I haven’t really delved into the plot. There’s a reason for that. It’s because it makes little sense and it really doesn’t matter. Even if the movie were good, it wouldn’t matter because the point of this film is to laugh at the two mismatched characters. But there’s the rub: IF the movie were good. And it’s not.
OK, I could take that angle. Or, in keeping with the spirit of the film, I could take a ruder, raunchier angle:
What the hell is going on with Sandra Bullock? Why does she keep appearing in lame comedies? Jesus f**king Christ, didn’t she learn ANYTHING from All About Steve? I mean, she’s a f**king Oscar winner! Is she aware that the Oscar clique consisting of Halle Berry and Cube Gooding, Jr. is one that she DOESN’T want to join?
And what the f**k’s going on with her face? In certain lighting and in some camera angles, she looks like f**king Joan Rivers. Not that I would kick her out of bed for eating crackers, she’s still got a smokin’ body, just check out the scene where director Paul Feig makes her debase herself by ripping off her clothes! Man, I’ve got some swollen goods she could take into evidence! I’m just disappointed they didn’t make her do a striptease since that’s the “thing” now. Just ask Jennifer Aniston or Gwyneth Paltrow. And THANK–GOD they actually wrote dialogue into the script as to why McCarthy is not required to strip. That would’ve been a tragedy. The filmmakers make it clear that McCarthy’s girth is meant to make us laugh by putting her in weird situations where her size is a detriment. And she seems all too eager to please in that endeavor.
This movie just ain’t that f**king funny. 2/5 reels
P.S. I don’t know if it was the speaker system in the theater where I saw this, but even the sound was off. There’s a club scene where the music is mixed way low and the crowd walla is non-existent. It literally sounds like it was shot on a soundstage and they forgot to foley the scene. This happens in a few other scenes. And the rap background music seems unnaturally loud, further amplifying the unnecessarily crude lyrics. It seems forced and out of place, particularly when they go into a Boston Southie bar. Rap music in a Boston corner bar, really?