The Heat (2013)
★★★ / ★★★★
Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is a good FBI agent based off New York City. She knows how bad guys think so she is able to close a case quickly and then she is onto the next one. Despite her talent, she does not have the respect of her colleagues. They think she is a bit of a know-it-all, arrogant, and quite unpleasant to be around. But Ashburn wants a promotion. In order for her to get it, she must go to Boston and capture a drug lord. Enter Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), a very aggressive—some might say out of control—cop in the Boston Police Department, with whom Ashburn must learn to work with to get the chance to further her career.
During the majority of its running time, “The Heat” is seemingly unstoppable. Just about every scene is laugh-out-loud funny, the performers are game to say and do whatever is necessary to get at least a chuckle from the audience, the director, Paul Feig, is behind the camera, completely matching the verve and dynamism of McCarthy and Bullock. However, once the final quarter comes around, the material is significantly less consistent—like it has run out of energy. The clichés many of us have grown blind to in the first hour or so become more noticeable and they take away some of the fun.
Without Bullock and McCarthy’s willingness to make fun of themselves, the picture might have turned out to be a complete mess. The two performers are put into work physically—running, crawling, rolling—and combined with a relatively sharp script, it works wonderfully. We observe what the duo can do with the physical space they are provided while maintaining the energy they exert in their bodies through the requisite line deliveries—often a mouthful, profanity-laden, and requiring perfect timing. We want to laugh because we get the feeling that the actors are laughing are themselves, too.
It is at its funniest when Ashburn and Mullins are on each other’s throats. The idea to have two completely opposite personalities and have them work together is nothing new, but there are enough jokes, wit, and exaggeration to create an illusion that what it is working with is fresh. Conversely, it is also very amusing when the women of the law are on the same page and are out to get someone else—whether it be a suspect or competing agents (Dan Bakkedahl, Taran Killam).
Less entertaining are scenes that involve obvious bonding moments. Particularly painful, embarrassing, and awkward to sit through is watching Mullins and Ashburn having drinks in a bar and getting in all sorts of “crazy” and “funny” drunk situations—in quotations because such images come off more desperate than mildly humorous. While understandable that the polar opposites must form a relationship, the bar scene—and others like it—is not necessary; the relationship is forged through the investigation, the catty quips, and how they look at one another when one is hurt on a deeper level, whether it be on the job, around family, or just hanging out at one’s apartment.
Written by Katie Dippold, “The Heat” might have benefited from having a shorter running time. The work is lopsided in that the most effective jokes are found in the first hour. While there are a few good scenes in the latter half, there is more padding which can be felt through a much slower pacing. Nevertheless, the film offers a good time because it oozes positivity, as its type of comedy should, every step of the way.