By Will Ashton
Whether Hollywood accepts it or not, the buddy-cop movie formula is pretty much dead. I mean, we all love Lethal Weapon, and I will continue to defend Die Hard With a Vengeance as the best (and, possibly, only good) Die Hard sequel. But, for now, it remains the same-old cliches and tired troupes.
So, kudos to The Heat for trying to mix things up a bit in a very tired genre. The comedy, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy playing a duo of detectives who reluctantly work together to track down a drug lord, has all the trappings of your typical buddy cop movie, except that the lead roles are played by the opposite gender. Which, if given a tight script like the one Shane Black wrote for Lethal Weapon, may be enough to make it work.
Unfortunately, that is not the case here. Screenwriter Katie Dippold (Parks and Recreation) continues to offer up the same-old buddy cop movie plot points, but lacks filling in enough good jokes to make it worthwhile.
Keep in mind that the choice word here is good, because, for what it’s worth, The Heat does continue to pack joke after joke in each scene. The problem is that most of them fail to land. A majority of the jokes in this movie rely on Melissa McCarthy; who’s schtick, for the record, is starting to get old, in my opinion. I mean, it worked well enough as a supporting character in Bridesmaids, sure. But, like most comedic supporting characters, it’s not enough to fill a two-hour movie.
Until proven otherwise, I feel like McCarthy needs to prove to people that she has more range, so that she doesn’t continue to get typecast as the same character she played in Bridesmaids. I know she has it in her, at least dramatically. If you haven’t seen it, check out an indie called The Nines starring Ryan Reynolds. It’s clear that she can do more than yell cuss words, and I would like to see it show more.
Much like his last feature, Paul Feig’s biggest fault as a director is that he suffers from what I call “Judd Apatow-ities.” In both Bridesmaids and this, he goes under the philosophy of jokes over timing. If one joke works in this scene, why not put in five more? The problem becomes that it drags the movie’s running time, ruins its pace and often kills the jokes that was originally funny in the scene. Now, this problem isn’t as bad here as it was in some scenes in Bridesmaids (ironic, given that it was the better movie) and I feel like Feig is a little more aware of the use of the deleted scenes and bloopers sections of the DVD here than he was last time. But, unfortunately, it continues to remain a problem.
I know for sure that Feig can be a funny guy. He has proven so with his show Freaks and Geeks and even in his other writings, like his memoir, Superstud. I respect him for being able to make women be at the center stage of comedy. I just wish that he made a better film in doing so. Also, maybe make some room for some women directors to make their own female comedies. Bridesmaids was fine enough and all, but now that you finally got some of the recognition that you deserve, I’d like to see you go back to making some of the comedies that you made before. I would hate to see another person get typecast here.
What’s worse about it is that this movie lacks the great supporting cast that Bridesmaids had, along with its solid writing, to make up for this problem. Particularly Jon Hamm, who I felt was the one who really did steal the show in that movie (sorry McCarthy). Not too knock out all the supporting cast of this film, however, which includes some greats like Bill Burr, Taran Killam and Thomas F. Wilson, but rarely are they ever given something to do. In Bridesmaids, the supporting characters are practically the ones that save the movie. Here, a majority of the supporting cast is just there to say exposition. So, that just leaves Bullock and McCarthy to do most of the work. And while they do have some decent chemistry together, they, alone, are not enough to make this movie work.
Throughout my viewing of The Heat, I was constantly reminded of Cop Out. In many ways, they are very similar. They both desperately want to have that Lethal Weapon feel, wit and edge to them, but throw in more of today’s style of humor. But neither of them are able to make it work. While The Heat, admittedly, is a little better than Cop Out, if just for the fact that at least the leads have some chemistry together, they both lack the wit and laughs that are needed to work. There are some chuckles to be had in the movie, sure. Michael McDonald and Melissa McCarthy both had a line here and there that made me laugh, and one sequence involving a diner actually turned out to be a funnier sequence than I originally gave it credit for. But, ultimately, more jokes miss than hit. For a film called The Heat, especially when This is the End will be playing at a screen nearby, it doesn’t really bring it.