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The Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy buddy comedy is fine, but boy, it should be better than it is...
Fox / 117 Minutes / 2013 / Rated R / Street Date: October 15, 2013
The Heatarrived on screens this summer with a double dose of something that still seems somewhat outlandish: Oscar cred. Within the framework of Paul Feig’s The Heat, it seems like Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock are simply interested in finding physical humor and mining it for all it’s worth, but these actresses bring a lot more to this dumbass action/comedy than meets the eye. And the fact that it was a surprisingly big success in cinemas means they must be doing something right, no?
Here’s the deal with The Heat – when Melissa McCarthy is in full-tilt Melissa McCarthy mode, the movie is easily digestible megaplex fare, but there’s shockingly little beneath the funny ha-ha veneer here. Bridesmaids may not prove in coming years and decades to be the belly laugh classic it felt like it could have been when it was first released, but if anything, Feig proved with that film that he might have a particular gift in fostering female comic mastery in hilariously evocative ways. In comparison, though, The Heat is just another summer yuk-fest.
Any trailer – or even a basic poster mock-up – tells you everything you need to know about The Heat and its narrative constructs. Sandra Bullock plays Sarah Ashburn, an uppity FBI agent who resents having to work alongside crass, potty-mouthed Boston cop Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), but when they need to team up to track down a drug lord, they heed the call. Sarah learns that she can let her guard down every now and then, and Shannon comes to the revelation that she doesn’t need to be standoffish to get people’s attention and affection. The end.
I hate to be so flippant with The Heat because it brings some laughs and the cast of Bullock and McCarthy is inspired (and with the Bridesmaids guy – sign me up!). The end result film, though, aims to such a basic low common denominator that it’s difficult to brush off a certain resentment toward its lazy intents. I’m happy to throw money at anything Melissa McCarthy decides to do, but she and Bullock here are proven, lauded performers – they’re capable of far more than just a series of bawdy one-liners.