Editor Notes: The Heat opens in wide theatrically tomorrow, June 28th.
The multiplex doesn’t go without a new buddy cop film for too long. Two agents of the law with vastly different sensibilities and styles must team up for justice; the trope has become a staple of the film industry. Although coming from more dramatic film noir roots in Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog, the genre veered into comedy most notably with 48 Hrs. and has been living a pretty comfortable life in that niche. We have been treated to a multitude of pairings, two men, man and woman, even man and dog; but the one that has yet to be fully explored is the illusive two women team up. The release of The Heat looks to blaze the female buddy cop trail; unfortunately it isn’t a confident first step.
With The Heat it looks like Feig is becoming the go-to guy for female comedic vehicles. Nevertheless, this film does not even compare to Bridesmaids.
FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is the best agent in her division; she also happens to be the least appreciated. Upon the announcement that her boss Hale (Demián Bichir) has been promoted, thus vacating the very position that she covets, she heads to his office with high expectations. Hale tells her that he has yet to decide on a replacement and that if she wants to have any hope of a promotion she has to go to Boston in order to locate a dangerous Russian mobster. Shortly after arriving in Boston, Ashburn butts heads with Boston Police Detective Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy). Neither has worked with a partner before, but they must put aside their many differences and join forces to get the job done.
Paul Feig was in a pretty tough situation when it came to choosing his next directorial effort. His Bridesmaids was a comedic homerun, so if you forget Unaccompanied Minors (which, honestly don’t we all), the guy was gold. With The Heat it looks like Feig is becoming the go-to guy for female comedic vehicles. Nevertheless, this film does not even compare to Bridesmaids. This leads me to reexamine my praise of the latter. It is a laugh-out-loud film that continues to deliver on repeat viewings, but I do not remember ever truly noting the direction. The moments were communicated adequately but the reason the film was so enjoyable was the writing and the women on screen. Kristen Wiig, who co-wrote and starred in Bridesmaids, probably deserves more credit. The direction of The Heat is fine, the action is easy to follow and it doesn’t hurt my eyes, but there is nothing really setting it apart here. Feig does a serviceable job but perhaps I came in expecting too much from the director. Besides a couple of actors, this film shares little with the past comedic gem, and Feig might want to be a bit more discerning in his film choices unless he is happy to be simply a comedy director for hire.
The two lead female characters are the worst kind of stereotypes. Both are strong women and completely abrasive. The fact that they are above average in their field is vastly overshadowed by their inability to work with others. Additionally, this inability is portrayed as deriving directly from their gender. They are both shown to be negative and obtrusively anti-social. I find it hard to find a reason to make the characters so awful. For the majority of the runtime they feed into the rampant gender inequality that permeates the film. The surrounding male workforce is rude, dismissive and unequivocally sexist. Very little effort is made to make anyone appear actually human. Everyone trudges along firmly in their basic character descriptions. Surprisingly, Marlon Wayans may offer the most rounded performance, although even saying that is an overstatement. I could gripe that this is a severely missed opportunity in its decision to involve shrew-like female characters, and it is, but the real problem is that this choice and many others just results in a general sense of mean spirit.
This is a buddy cop film and it sticks pretty closely to the formula that the genre has worked out over its many years of existence.
If you couldn’t glean from the plot summary, the film is fairly boilerplate. This is a buddy cop film and it sticks pretty closely to the formula that the genre has worked out over its many years of existence. Other than the fact that it features a female duo at its center, it’s the same old shtick. I do not fault the film for its decision to hew closely to its roots, only that it doesn’t provide a reason to take any notice of it. Sandra Bullock seems to be reprising her character from Miss Congeniality minus any of the congeniality that she gained in that film (let’s also pretend Miss Congeniality 2 didn’t happen). She doesn’t have a funny moment until the last 20 minutes of the film when the character is finally allowed to respond honestly to any situation and in so saying I am really stretching the definition of “funny”. Melissa McCarthy is forced to do much of the comedic heavy lifting but even then only manages a slight chuckle here and there. The rough exterior of her character is played far too broadly and makes the actually genuine moments, many having to do with her brother, feel inauthentic and out of character. Overall, the film thinks it’s a lot funnier than it is.
When you go into a film it is difficult not to have expectations. The internet has given us access to numerous trailers and countless posters with plenty of taglines. It’s those expectations that convinced you to buy a ticket. So when you have a film that is touted as “from the director of Bridesmaids” and you see that the cast features a breakout star of that film, excitement for hilarity is understandable. However, The Heat does not even play in the same league, despite what the marketing department wants you to believe. Poorly developed characters, shoddy story work and a generic premise are offenses in themselves; but the biggest problem is that this buddy cop comedy is simply unfunny. Its stars have noticeable chemistry and occasionally do their best to deliver the laughs; however they have exceptionally little success. You know things are bad when the funniest moment comes after the film has ended proper. Employing the worst kinds of female stereotypes and a mean spirited atmosphere, The Heat isn’t only offensive to women, but to fans of comedy in general.
[notification type=”star”]36/100 ~ BAD. Poorly developed characters, shoddy story work and a generic premise are offenses in themselves; but the biggest problem is that this buddy cop comedy is simply unfunny.[/notification]