Nerdy Girl Goes to the Movies: The Heat

The Heat poster

Title: The Heat

Rating: R

Cast: Sandra Bullock (Sarah Ashburn), Melissa McCarthy (Shannon Mullins), Marlon Wayans (Levy), Demian Bichir (Hale), Michael Rapaport (Jason Mullins), Taran Killam (Adam)

Director: Paul Feig

The Basics: The Heat is a classic buddy-cop comedy about an uptight, conceited FBI agent who’s forced to work with a gruff and unorthodox detective from Boston in order to bring down a drug kingpin and murderer. The unique thing about this film is that both the FBI agent and Boston detective are women. Although it’s probably not the greatest cop film anyone will ever see, this film should be remembered for its dedication to focusing solely on the relationship between these two female characters—and what great characters they are. Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock both bring such different but equally fantastic comedic energies to this film, proving once again that a film driven by women can be just as funny as (if not funnier than) a male-centric comedy.

M.V.P. (Most Valuable Performer): There’s no way to separate McCarthy and Bullock when talking about this film, especially not when trying to judge who was better. They were a true team, bringing different comedic styles to the table and bouncing those styles off each other to create something genuinely entertaining. Both actors played variations on roles we’re familiar with (McCarthy’s Mullins was in many ways similar to her role in Bridesmaids, and Bullock’s Ashburn had notes of her performances in both Miss Congeniality and The Proposal.), but the combination of the two of them together was lightning in a bottle. They’re each skilled in so many different ways to be funny—from physical comedy to deadpan delivery to the perfect time to drop an f-bomb (or 10). When I first heard that McCarthy and Bullock were making a buddy-cop comedy together, I knew they would be a dream team, but they exceeded even my high expectations. They seemed to bring out the best and funniest in each other, creating a kind of comedic chemistry that can’t be forced. Actors either have it or they wish they did, and these two have it in spades.

Scene Stealer: The movie really belonged to Bullock and McCarthy—to the point where it was hard to pick someone who diverted any attention away from them. The closest this movie came to having any scene stealers was Mullins’s family. From Joey McIntyre as one of her loudmouthed brothers to Jane Curtin as her constantly disapproving mother, the casting of this family was excellent. The scene where Mullins and Ashburn cram the whole family into a van to get them out of their neighborhood was absolutely hilarious.

Bring the Tissues? Only if you have a tendency to cry when you laugh really hard.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Stay in your seat during the credits for an extra scene featuring Ashburn, Mullins, and the cat Ashburn likes to borrow from her neighbor. It’s worth sticking around for a little bit to get one last laugh in before you leave.

Most Memorable Scene: There were a lot of memorable, hilarious scenes in The Heat, but the funniest scene—the one that combines all of Bullock and McCarthy’s comedic strengths—is the scene where Mullins and Ashburn follow a suspect into a club and attempt to get close to him to bug his phone. Yes, one of the biggest laughs was spoiled in the trailers and commercials for the film (Mullins asking “What’s gonna come popping out?” when she learns what Spanx are for). However, that scene is so much more than just one punch line. When Mullins tells Ashburn to ventilate the area usually covered by her Spanx, I couldn’t breathe because I was laughing so hard. It’s a kind of humor that appeals to women because we can relate and I’d think appeals to men as well because McCarthy and Bullock’s delivery is just so good. And once the women leave the bathroom and go back into the club, it’s physical comedy gold. Watching Bullock try to seduce the suspect while McCarthy yells out encouragement (“Use your boobs!”) was hilarious, and I loved watching them try to get rid of one woman who kept trying to get herself in the middle of their seduction attempt.

Strengths: The Heat’s greatest strength is that it’s funny—genuinely, start-to-finish, laugh-out-loud funny. It features a pair of actors who are adept at so many different types of comedy that you’re never bored watching it. You never know when the next laugh is coming, and I love that in a comedy. I like when a joke or a moment of physical comedy takes me by surprise, and that happened throughout The Heat. Bullock and McCarthy had a fantastic chemistry that really allowed their interactions to feel natural and their jokes at the other’s expense to feel unforced. That chemistry made what was already a funny script even better.

Perhaps my favorite thing about The Heat, though, goes beyond its ability to make me laugh. It’s a film in a traditionally male genre that puts all of its focus on two women and their relationship. The growing trust and eventual friendship between Mullins and Ashburn is the most important relationship in the film; there’s no love story (beyond the flirtation between Ashburn and Levy) except for the sisterly love that develops between these two seemingly incompatible women. The success of this film makes me incredibly happy; it proves that two women can be the sole focus a comedy film and lots of people will still want to go see it. I suppose Bridesmaids did a lot to prove that already, but The Heat directly confronts a male-dominated genre and proves that two women can be just as strong an anchor for a buddy-cop movie as any pair of male actors in Hollywood today.

Weaknesses: While The Heat succeeded in depicting the “buddy” part of the buddy-cop genre, I think the “cop” part faltered a little bit. I thought McCarthy and Bullock were both great at playing effective law enforcement officers with different strengths, but I think the story itself wasn’t terribly compelling. Both women were strong, but their main nemesis needed some work. Maybe it’s because I think Taran Killam is too adorable to be villainous or maybe I’ve just seen him be too funny on Saturday Night Live for too long, but I couldn’t take him seriously once he was revealed to be the main villain. The action plot itself was hard to follow at times, but I know it wasn’t supposed to be the main focus of the film. And I kept getting thrown off by the constant mentions of the “Red Falls Killer.” I thought it would end up being a major plot point—but maybe it will be if there’s ever a sequel.

Final Verdict: Sometimes you just want to have fun when you go to the movies, and if that’s what you’re looking for, The Heat is the summer movie for you. I judge comedies by how often and how hard I laugh in the theater, and this film had me actually writhing in my seat with laughter at more than one point. I haven’t laughed that hard in a movie theater since I saw Bridesmaids, and I love that female-centered films are the ones bringing the biggest laughs to audiences (or at least to me) nowadays. Yes, this film had a few flaws, but nobody is going to see The Heat for its FBI/detective plot. People are going to see this film to laugh, and I don’t think anyone going in with that hope is going to be disappointed.

Grade: A –

 

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2 thoughts on “Nerdy Girl Goes to the Movies: The Heat

  1. Thoughtful review for a wonderful movie! And thank you for recognizing that Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy shined equally as bright as the other in this outing. It bums me out when I see reviews saying that Melissa stole the show, because I didn’t see it that way at all. While, of course, she was outrageously hilarious, I think Sandra more than held her own and gave as good as she got, just in a different way. She most definitely was not the traditional straight man.

    This movie makes me want to rush back into the theater to see it again, which a movie hasn’t done for me in a while. It reminded me how much I’ve always loved Sandra and made it even more clear that Melissa is going to have an illustrious (and hopefully prolific) career. These two have incredible chemistry, and I’m crossing my fingers for them doing more movies together in the future. This isn’t something I usually say, but give me the sequels!

    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment! I completely agree with you about Sandra Bullock. I felt like she wasn’t getting nearly enough love in the reviews I was reading for the film, and I wanted to make sure I made a note of just how much of an equal she was to Melissa McCarthy. Sure, they both were different kinds of funny, but they both had me cracking up throughout the film.

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