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Josh Reviews The Heat

August 22nd, 2013
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If I had just been considering it based on the plot description, The Heat is probably not a movie I would have gone to see.  But director Paul Feig’s projects always have my attention.  (Mr. Feig is the creator of the brilliant Freaks and Geeks, and most recently he directed the very funny Bridesmaids).  So I suspected that The Heat would be worth catching.  And, indeed, it was!  It is not as hilarious, nor as unique, as Bridesmaids was.  But it is still a very funny film, and a far cleverer one than it looked to me from the trailers.

The Heat is, basically, Lethal Weapon with two women instead of two men.  It’s a buddy cop movie, in which is straight-laced, by-the-book cop is paired up with an unpredictable, wild cop.  It’s a comedic film, but it’s not a spoof.  There is serious action and a real threat present for our heroes.  Like I said, it’s Lethal Weapon!  There is a simplicity to that idea — Lethal Weapon with chicks! — that might feel too easy to some (and, indeed, that is why I wrote above that The Heat didn’t feel to me as unique a film as Bridesmaids was), but I found it to be a surprisingly clever hook for the film, one that I don’t recall being done before.

And since I absolutely adored the Lethal Weapon films as a kid, I am happy to see a new Lethal Weapon style buddy cop flick. Starring men or women!

Sandra Bullock plays Ashburn, an extremely proficient FBI agent who is nevertheless disliked by all of her co-workers for her uptight, self-superior mannerisms.  She is on the trail of a drug lord, which brings her to Boston and the jurisdiction of Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), who is Ashburn’s exact opposite: a slovenly, violent, seat-of-her-pants officer.  Though not immediately apparent on first glimpse, Mullins is, in her own way, just as proficient an officer as is Ashburn.  The two women, of course, take an immediate dislike to one another, but after being forced by circumstances to work together, eventually form a tight, unbeatable partnership.

It is not an original story, that is clear.  But that is sort of the point, I think.  Part of the fun of The Heat is seeing these familiar male buddy-cop movie tropes played out with two women.  And what makes The Heat work is that, on top of that, Mr. Feig (working from a script by Katie Dippold) has layered in a lot of the comic digressions and details that are his trademark.

Both Ms. Bullock and Ms. McCarthy do strong work.  Ms. Bullock is well-practiced at playing the “straight woman” and no one can play uptight quite like she does.  I love that she didn’t make Ashburn mousy, but rather played her as overflowing with confidence.  In her introductory scene, in which she is able to immediately locate the drugs and weapons hidden in a house during a drug bust, I adored the shit-eating grin she sports while striding confidently away.

Ms. McCarthey exploded onto the scene with Bridesmaids, and has been seemingly everywhere in the two years since.  I know a few people who have already tired of her, but I don’t really understand that.  Ok, she has appeared in some bad movies, but I just skipped those films that didn’t interest me (like Identity Thief).  While Mullins and Megan (her character in Bridesmaids) do share a gruff, profane fearlessness, I didn’t feel that they were exactly the same characters.  Most importantly, the pairing of Ms. McCarthy with Ms. Bullock worked great, resulting in magical chemistry that strikingly reminded me of, you guessed, Riggs and Murtaugh.

Some familiar faces do great work in supposing roles.  Demian Bechir brought a different spin to the familiar role of Ashburn’s by-the-book supervisor in the FBI, and Thomas Wilson was absolutely hilarious as Mullins’ weary, beaten-down police chief.  Let me say here that I love Thomas Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future!!) and I am sorry he doesn’t work a lot more these days.  I guess only Paul Feig gives him good roles.  (He was superlative as Coach Fredricks in Freaks and Geeks, possibly the most nuanced role Mr. Wilson has ever had the opportunity to play.)  Marlon Wayans has a small role as a sweet FBI agent who works with Ashburn, and he’s a lot of fun.  Even more fun is the great Jane Curtin as the angry matriarch of Mullins’ family.  She is a hoot.  Michael Rappaport plays Mullins’ always-in-trouble brother.  It’s a familiar role for Mr. Rappaport, the sweet but dim bulb, but he plays that role well so I can’t complain.

The Heat is not Mr. Feig’s greatest work.  It takes a little while to get going, but by the second hour I was laughing hard and definitely along for the ride.  I wouldn’t say this is a brilliantly innovative comedic revelation, but it’s a very solidly funny flick, a very enjoyable time in the movie theatre.  I’d definitely be up for a sequel!

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