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David Poland

By David Poland

Review-ish: The Heat (spoiler-light)

It’s the perfect comedy for an airplane.

The idea is clever. The casting is pretty great. And there are some really funny moments.

But the story structure is wildly inconsistent and it just doesn’t quite gel.

It’s not complicated. Uptight FBI agent gets stuck with a wild card Boston cop, the shit gets deep, unexpected truths are revealed between the women, and in the third act, they team up, somewhat reversing roles, for a big, fun ending.

So, for instance, Melissa McCarthy’s movie family, led by Jane Curtin as her mom, is nearly perfect. But it gets mushy at times. And while Michael Rappaport behaves in ways that make no sense, there never is the great scene with McCarthy & Jane Curtin… as how she came from Curtin’s womb is a great comic premise.

Flipside, Sandra Bullock is Ms. Lonely… but that too is not played on enough or consistently enough (with Marlon Wayans as the threat to be interesting to her). And the fact that McCarthy’s rager has men in every storefront they enter should be really funny. There are plenty of reasons why McCarthy’s no-BS character would be attractive to all kinds of guys, even more than Bullock’s more classic cutie. But it’s almost as though it was there, but they didn’t want to pull the trigger too hard.

Anyway… amusing enough. Not much more than that. It had the potential to be a minor classic. But the film screams for structure that it doesn’t have. And as fun as the many improvised hijinks are, they don’t add up to a complete, clear, comic vision.

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26 Responses to “Review-ish: The Heat (spoiler-light)”

  1. movieman says:

    You were much too kind, Dave.
    “The Heat” is execrable in every way: lazy writing, slovenly direction, a stunning dearth of laughs.
    The only nice thing I could say about it in my review was that at least it wasn’t in 3-D.
    Was this really the best project Bullock got offered after winning her Oscar?
    If so, that’s inordinately depressing on multiple levels.
    The fact that it’s doing so well (I’m sticking with my prediction that Fox will announce a sequel before Independence Day) is even more soul-crushing.

  2. Aaron Aradillas says:

    Godard once said the best way to critique a movie is to make another movie. THE HEAT is the answer to Kevin Smith’s shockingly unfunny ’80s buddy-cop throwback COP OUT. It’s a good Friday-might comedy. The nightclub sequence and the girls’-at-the-bar sequence are keepers. Feig is good at cutting a scene off when al possible laughs have been achieved. What the movie is lacking a one solid action set-piece. I flashing back to the El chase in RUNNING SCARED or the shootout at the end of BEVERLY HILLS COP. David Gordon Green might have been a better director. One thing is for certain: McCarthy is a bona fide comedy star. I’m sure that scares Hollywood.

  3. jesse says:

    Movieman, you sound insanely humorless. This is one of the best movies Bullock has ever been in — not that this is a four-star masterpiece, but she hasn’t been in much of anything of value beyond Speed and a few others. She’s certainly never been funnier on screen. And McCarthy’s combination of verbal and physical dexterity is impressive.

    For me, the most apt comparison is Ferrell/McKay’s The Other Guys — this one isn’t quite as well-directed and is more content to play through very, very boilerplate cop-movie cliches rather than riff on them and take them in weird places, the way McKay and Ferrell did. That said, the pairing is very funny and if the movie as a whole isn’t spectacularly well-paced, the individual scenes often are. Aaron is right — Feig knows how to milk the right number of laughs from a sequence. And I think it’s fine that there wasn’t a real action set piece; it’s a comedy, not an action movie. I loved the small-scale but very funny heroics towards the end.

    Then again, I recall Dave didn’t care for The Other Guys, either. People have weird ideas sometimes about what constitutes good comedy filmmaking.

  4. movieman says:

    I stand by my comments, Jesse. (Btw, I liked “The Other Guys.”)

    And Aaron: You’re right “Cop Out” WAS atrocious.
    But certainly no worse than Feig’s abomination.
    His utterly forgettable tweener throwaway “Unaccompanied Minors” looks like “The 400 Blows” in comparison.

  5. Bitplayer says:

    I think movieman and Dave are way off base here. I find it hard to believe that you can watch that movie and not laugh at least once. So many comedies try to be ironic and never actually go for a laugh. They went for laughs hard and often and it got me. A lot of jokes at the leads expense and most of them play very well. I think this movie will have awesome legs. I think it tweeked the cliche’s enough for my taste without going into Naked Gun territory.

  6. jesse says:

    McCarthy talking about her ebay grenade is funnier than entire 15-minute chunks of Cop Out. The scenes with McCarthy’s horrible family are funnier than the entirety of Cop Out.

  7. Joe Leydon says:

    Glad to hear the love for The Other Guys. I remember people responding to me with incredulous stares when I told them how funny I thought that one was. Can anyone tell me whether the longer, unrated DVD version was even funnier?

  8. David Poland says:

    Just to make clear, my comments weren’t in the same ballpark as movieman’s on this.

    Did like The Other Guys, though I thought some of the set pieces were not very well done although very large.

    There are laughs. But the “let’s connect” bar sequence defines the entire film. Lots of laughs. But it’s also clear that a lot of it is taking 5 seconds here and 3 seconds there of improv. The scene, as a scene, kind falls apart and then starts repeating itself. What that says to me is that they didn’t want to let the improv stuff go (which is probably the right call), but also that the core of the sequence as written didn’t really work. If it did, there wouldn’t be multiple, factually varied gags about Bullock’s status after she passed out… and remember, the McCarthy character exaggerates, but her character core is as a truth teller

  9. movieman says:

    I smiled once during “The Heat:”

    It was during the “reaction” shots of the dog that was in the car w/ Bullock.
    Poor thing looked as pained as I felt sitting through that godforsaken excrescence.

  10. movieman says:

    So many comedies try to be ironic and never actually go for a laugh.

    I’m guessing the scene where McCarthy hits the African-American perp she’s chasing with a watermelon was intended to be ironic, right?
    Otherwise, it’s as racist as Palin’s shuck-and-jive remark.

  11. jesse says:

    Actually, movieman, it was intended to be ironic, because the African-American perp has just been claming racism early in the scene for no real reason (that we can see), so when she hits him with the watermelon, it’s (I think) supposed to be an unfortunate circumstance that allows him to say see, you ARE being racist. So it’s not like the movie doesn’t acknowledge that. The joke is on McCarthy as much as the perp.

    Joe, I’ve definitely watched the longer/unrated Other Guys on DVD, and I don’t remember much about the differences (it’s only about five or six minutes longer, if I remember correctly). It at least doesn’t do what the unrated Anchorman does, where it subs in new takes/jokes that sometimes replace jokes from the theatrical cut that worked fine (in addition to some extra footage that is amusing enough but inessential). I will go to bat for the unrated Step Brothers — again, just a little bit longer, but adds rather than replaces, and most of the new bits are funny. (Huge Ferrell/McKay fan here.)

    Also, Joe, I know you mentioned having a visceral not-want-to-see reaction to The Heat but I dunno: if you found The Other Guys funny, I think you might enjoy this one. It’s also, as I point out in my review, pretty much the only mostly female-driven big studio movie for who knows how long. Shameless self-promotion:

    Dave, I didn’t take the “factually varied” accounts of Bullock’s offscreen night as contradictory; I thought the joke was that all this different stuff happened offscreen and/or that Bullock doesn’t remember (you know, sort of like The Hangover).

  12. celluloidkid says:

    “I’m guessing the scene where McCarthy hits the African-American perp she’s chasing with a watermelon was intended to be ironic, right?”

    I haven’t seen the movie, but am I horrible for literally laughing out loud after reading (and visualizing) that?

    I may have to check it out after all.

  13. Joe Leydon says:

    Jesse: I think what I liked most about The Other Guys was that it worked (for me, at least) as both a buddy-cop action comedy, and a parody of buddy-cop action comedies. I know that mix is what some other people didn’t like about the movie, but there you go. I liked Cowboys & Aliens and Hancock (to cite just 2 examples) for the same reasons many other folks disliked them.

  14. Paul Doro says:

    I love The Others Guys. I watch it every time it’s on when I’m flipping. Always makes me smile. Great cast and extremely amusing from start to finish. I’m always surprised when people say they don’t like it. It might not be a work of towering comedic genius, and not every joke hits the target, but it’s pretty damn funny and easy to enjoy. Joe I totally agree that it works as both, which is part of its charm. As for The Heat, my mom and sister both really liked it while admitting it’s not a masterpiece. Just a nice matinee good for some easy laughs. That’s all I’m expecting. I like the Bullock/McCarthy pairing and think it looks fun.

  15. movieman says:

    I like the Bullock/McCarthy pairing and think it looks fun.

    “The Heat” is about as much fun as root canal minus the novocaine, Paul.

  16. Paul Doro says:

    You’ve made your point perfectly clear movieman, and it doesn’t make me want to see it any less. Sorry. Others here liked it and I have no doubt that I’ll enjoy it more than you did.

  17. jesse says:

    Yeah, also, movieman, not to be a dick or anything but that’s a major pet peeve of mine in terms of film writing: coming up with elaborate metaphors to describe a movie’s “badness” without at all describing the movie itself. The most specific you’ve gotten here is saying it “has no laughs” or other kind of vague, pure-subjective, non-criticism reactions. It’s only a step up from saying “it really, really, really, really sucks.”

    I know it’s just comments on a blog and not your formal review, and obviously all reviews are subjective, but if prompted I could definitely go into detail about why I found Stuck in Love so horrible — beyond just calling it horrible in a bunch of ways. And I don’t mean to single you out, as, again, I know it’s just comments on a blog — it’s surprising how many critics do this in their actual reviews!

  18. jesse says:

    Oh and Joe, though I don’t agree with you about Cowboys & Aliens working, or even about the mixing of genres being why people didn’t like it (I was really with the movie during the western intro, and really excited when the aliens first turned up, but then the movie doesn’t DO anything with either of its genres; it’s the most boilerplate imaginable from the 45-minute mark or so)… I do agree that often what people consider clashing tones or neither-here-nor-there mixtures are actually pretty interesting for those exact reasons. That’s how I feel about a lot of David Gordon Green’s studio movies, actually. Pineapple Express (which The Heat also reminded me of) does kind of go crazy at the end with its violence but I liked that left-field action stuff. Your Highness is a weird mix of a spoof and an actual fantasy movie, which is what ticked me so much about it — it’s more of an actual fantasy movie with some parodic elements than a full-on satire of fantasy movies.

  19. Joe Leydon says:

    Jesse: Actually, what many people seemed to dislike about Cowboys & Indians was its seriousness. That is, they apparently expected some sort of wink-wink, tongue-in-cheeky sort of thing, and were disappointed when it turned out to be a fairly straightforward western that somebody dropped extra-terrestrials into. But I liked the fact that it wasn’t a comedy.

  20. jesse says:

    Oh, yeah, I’m with you on that: I did enjoy that aspect. But I would have liked it to be a little more inventive and FUN (and I feel that’s another misused term: people say “FUN” when they often seem to mean, well, jokey and snarky and self-aware).

  21. YancySkancy says:

    Yeah, arguing about comedy is pretty pointless. If I laughed, I laughed, and nothing you can say will make me say, “Oh, guess my instinctive reaction was wrong.” THE HEAT was no masterpiece, as someone said above, but I enjoyed myself, laughed often enough and liked the teaming of Bullock and McCarthy. It’s difficult to keep a plot on track when improv is allowed, but at least Feig doesn’t let the plot overtake the comedy, which was sort of the problem with IDENTITY THIEF.

    I liked THE OTHER GUYS well enough, but did have a couple of problems with it: The high-finance plotline that structures the story is sort of confusing and definitely not funny, not even in a bitingly satirical way. Luckily, most of the runtime is given over to the antics of Ferrell and Wahlberg, with some choice bits from Michael Keaton. This brings up the other problem I had–no one else gets much of a chance to shine, either because the writing’s not there or the improv didn’t work out. Eva Mendes, Steve Coogan, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans, Jr., Lindsay Sloane, even Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson have all been funnier elsewhere, so the comic balance is a bit off. Still, I got a lot of good laughs.

  22. jesse says:

    I found all of the supporting people in Other Guys pretty funny, Yancy, though granted Johnson and Jackson don’t have a lot to work with by nature of why they’ve been castin the first place. I liked Riggle and Wayans as the alpha-asshole cops. And I found Mendes surprisingly committed — she’s almost always a better comic actress than you might expect (found her charming and funny in Stuck on You, too). I also appreciated that it wasn’t the exact same rep-company people that did Talladega and Step Brothers (though I love both of those dearly).

    And of course a lot of comedy is even more subjective than most film stuff… but I do think you can try to get at why something is or is not funny. By which I mean: semi-ruin it by analyzing it. 😉

  23. leahnz says:

    i haven’t seen ‘the heat’ yet but i think whether or not you find something funny is the ultimate in pure, honest subjectivity because laughing is like a reflex, so visceral, you can’t ‘talk yourself into’ (or out of) laughing – you can fake it i guess but that’s not an honest reaction…it’s an instant gut reaction that must depend on so many factors, personal experiential variables and proclivities, etc (but i think it can also be quite infectious, if you experience a comedy surrounded by other people who are laughing and you’re laughing it can take the experience to a whole ‘nother level of funny, making something that might otherwise be funny to downright hilarious, laughter can be contagious)
    i guess you can try to describe why something is funny but it often gets lost in translation, trying to apply an analytical logic to explain something intangible – sometimes it’s not even the content but something as simple as great (or bad) timing or vocal inflection or the particular arrangement of words but your analytical mind doesn’t pinpoint that as the reason it either strikes you funny or lands with a thud.

  24. YancySkancy says:

    jesse: I like all those performers, and they did what they could; I just think they’ve had better chances to shine elsewhere. I absolutely agree about Mendes in STUCK ON YOU. She’s kinda brilliant in it, and worthy of a nomination, IMO.

  25. movieman says:

    Jesse- How about the suffocatingly bad/dead ’70s TV sitcom lighting?
    Or the pre-fab, utterly generic plot (drug dealers again? yawn) seemingly cobbled together from a hundred bad TV cop shows/movies.
    Or how they beat quasi-decent gags (e.g., the religious-themed sport paintings) to death because they haven’t got anything new up their sleeve.
    Or maybe the sheer ineptitude of the “action” scenes re: editing, framing, etc.
    Or how MM’s character is so coarse, unremittingly vulgar and, yeah, mean-spirited you want to run in the opposite direction whenever she shows up on screen.
    Or why it had to run an excruciatingly belabored/bloated 117 minutes when 85 (or less) would have sufficed.
    (I do have to confess that my screening was marred by two power outages that only exacerbated my intense dislike of the film by adding an add’l 30 minutes to the run time.)

  26. Bitplayer says:

    Sorry for not checking in earlier. Not that I represent all black people but I’m black and my girlfriend is as well. We both laughed our ass off at the melon scene. She’s far more sensitive to racial humor than I am and she had no problem with it. I wasn’t offended but I don’t mind being offended if it’s funny.

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