Paul Feig, the director of Bridesmaids is back with a film which sees Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock as two agents forced into a partnership and given the assignment of bringing down a drug lord. Does Feig utilise his female protagonists well? Is any of it even remotely funny? My review of The Heat is after the jump.
Detective Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is uptight, lonely, single and a lover of cats [ergo, she’s very much from the book of spinsters], and very few people like her. Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) is loud, aggressive, violent and dresses in a way that represents as much. She doesn’t care if anyone likes her. So of course, through a series of events, their paths cross and they are joined together to take down a crime lord, one in the interest of protecting her neighborhood, the other to obtain a promotion. They’re unsure of his true identity, but using both of their skill sets, Ashburn’s gained from her time in the field, and Mullins’ from her experience on the streets, they set out to find him and bring him down. Amidst it all and despite their differences as people, [you guessed it] a friendship is formed. They come to understand that despite promotions or perceptions in their male dominated workforce, they respect each other as people and officers of the law.
The Heat is not dumb, not even a little bit. It’s biggest crime is that despite the intelligence of its portrayal of women in film, the film in question is average and from a narrative standpoint it is quite lazy. If you replace the leads with men and remove all the curse words, you almost have Cop and a Half. It’s a better film than that but the similarities and inclusion of clichés bring it to such a conclusion. The Heat is a buddy cop comedy, and it’s failings are due to its resemblance with every other film of its ilk, in terms of story. It is predictable and it relies on many familiar tropes to propel the story along. The action is violent and loud, and it often feels like it is directed like a TV sitcom.
Melissa McCarthy is an incredibly funny actress who got her big break in 2011 in Feig’s last effort, Bridesmaids. She was by far the funniest thing in the entire film. She is not conventionally beautiful and some films will capitalise on her appearance for cheap laughs. Make no mistake, Melissa McCarthy is incredibly funny and any film such as this one that doesn’t play on her appearance but instead her ability as a performer should be commended. Mullins is an obnoxious and loud character, but not for a second is she a weak character. She is an incredible female protagonist whose chemistry with Bullock’s Ashburn makes for one of the film’s greatest strengths. Ashburn, although bearing a lot of clichés is elaborated upon and almost matches Mullins in dimension and integrity.
The formula these days for a Hollywood comedy is to have any female character single so that no matter what,there will be enough male characters within the frame for her to date. On top of being single, she has to either be dumb, scantily clad, one who only speaks in exposition, or all of the above. Just about anything to ensure that they’re somehow eye candy AND that no matter what, they’ll fall in love with the male protagonist by the film’s end (or even before it). The Heat avoids ALL of this. Neither protagonist relies on a man to progress in the story, neither go through a miraculous make over revealing cleavage to emphasise a change in pace for their character. They remain as funny, independent, intelligent women who can make us laugh.
The one “beautiful distraction” in the film is played by Marlon Wayans, who plays Levy, an officer in the field whose specialty exists behind a desk, gathering information for our protagonists. If this were one of the idiotic Hollywood films this review has previously mentioned, Wayans would be a woman, with her cleavage showing and would purely speak in exposition, merely serving as eye candy or essentially, an extension of any female protagonists present (see Star Trek 2). To have the eye candy element be an intelligent being who doesn’t rely on shedding clothes or brain cells to look appealing, is an anomaly and in some ways a revelation.
By Chris Elena
Director: Paul Feig
Writer(s): Kate Dippold
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock, Marlon Wayans, Demian Bichir, Michael Rappaport
Runtime: 117 minutes
Release Date(s) Australia & New Zealand: July 11, 2013; USA: June 28, 2013