Movie Review: “The Heat”

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Bullock and McCarthy go postal.

Bad girls, bad girls… wutcha gonna do?

When director Paul Feig did his part in blessing the cinematic world with the raunchy, ensemble comedy “Bridesmaids” in the year 2011, he did two things.

Number 1: He helped create a film, that featured an all-star, all-female cast, which not only reinvented the definition of a what a “chick flick” is, but also showed moviegoers that an all-star, all-female cast can get just as raunchy (if not raunchier) than their “hungover” male counterparts – all the while achieving box-office success

And Number 2: He assisted in reintroducing the world to the comedic whirlwind of filth and fury that is Melissa McCarthy and allowed McCarthy to rip Hollywood a new “you-know-what,” by becoming a box-office and critical success (she received an Oscar nomination for her performance in “Bridesmaids”) – without the cookie-cutter good looks. In fact, I’m pretty sure she used that cookie-cutter to cut some cookies, bake them, and eat them.

Fast-forward to 2013 and Feig has reunited with McCarthy (although, he also should have reunited with the also Academy-Award nominated “Bridesmaids” screenwriters, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo – not that former MAD tv contributor Katie Dippold’s screenplay is bad or anything) for “The Heat” and – guess what.

Paul Feig is still blessing us and fighting the good fight by reinventing tired, old cinematic genres, all the while setting the bullish McCarthy loose in the “Hollywood Old Boys Club China Shop” and… well… you guys know what bulls do when they get inside of a china shop.

And that’s exactly what McCarthy does. She – along with her permed-out do, Beantown attitude, and collection of flannel shirts – smashes up everything and everybody in her path, until there are very few pieces of the scenery and/or members of the supporting cast that are left standing and possessing all of their original parts.

So here’s the big question: If Melissa McCarthy performs such a “Hulk smash” on every, single reel of “The Heat,” then what chance does the mega-talented, Oscar-winning, box-office Amazon (on which there is a “Fire on”), as well as equally-as-famous (if not, more so) Sandra Bullock have of – forget competing with – staying out of the way of the destructive path of the Irish bull in the China shop.

Zero – Sandra Bullock had zero, zip, nada, NO CHANCE of staying out of the way of McCarthy.

Which is why the makers of “The Heat” came up with the idea of attaching a saddle to McCarthy and letting Bullock basically go along for the ride, while letting her play “the straight wo-man” to McCarthy… and it works to perfection.

While I can’t say enough positive things about McCarthy’s performance as the profanity-spouting, whale-of-a-police officer; Detective Shannon Mullins, it’s Bullock’s straight-laced, annoyingly-professional and overall neat freak; Special Agent Sarah Ashburn that is the film’s most important role. It (with Bullock masterfully leading the way) provides enough glue to allow the destroyed “china” to be put back together just barely so that a discernible story with minimum substance can be told.

Basically, without Bullock around to “cut” the content, McCarthy is just too strong for some people. Hold on, let me try this without the metaphors – Bullock mostly keeps the audience grounded in reality (although, like always, she is hilarious in her own way), while McCarthy provides the laughter going at a frantic pace throughout. This allows there to be just enough time at the end for an actual storyline to surface – even though, I’d be willing to bet, that about thirty-percent of the audience is going to instantly forget what that storyline is. This, of course, is the outcome that any good comedy – especially the “buddy cop comedy” – should strive to achieve, because… well… because – who cares about the plot, when the comedic moments are so frickin’ hilarious?

And hilarious they are, thanks to the two female leads, as well as an excellent supporting cast of unsung comedians and can’t-quite-place-‘em, familiar faces, who (again, if I may dispense with some more metaphorical mumbo-jumbo) successfully provide the necessary garnish that’s essential to the film’s overall presentation. Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows lately.

McCarthy’s character of Mullins is the perfect example of what happens to a tomboy – who was raised in a tight-knit Irish-Catholic family of all boys (Shannon is the lone sister in a sea of over-protective brothers) – when she is forced to grow up. We are given a little glimpse into her family life during a Mullins family meal, so to speak, in which all the stereotypes regarding the prototypical Bah-ston household are put on display for all to see.

This scene is full of familiar comedic faces, plus a few new ones, and even a former member of New Kids on the Block (Joey McIntyre plays one of Shannon’s brothers) shows up “fah supp-ah.” Former Saturday Night Live standout Jane Curtin plays the mother of the Mullins clan, while Rob Corddry’s little brother Nathan plays another one of the brothers Mullin.

However, who really stands out during these scenes are the comedic duo of Upright Citizens Brigade members Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, who play the significant others of two of the brothers (that rhymed). These two actresses are best known for their “Ronna and Beverly” podcast, in which they play two stereotypically Jewish radio show hosts, but also have some experience with Boston life, as they also both starred in the hilarious spoof series called “The Real Housewives of South Boston.”

This pair really stand outs during these scenes. Speaking of a “pair,” watch during the credits at the end of the film, as Jessica Chaffin makes history with her “boobs.” I know what I just wrote looks creepy and weird, but just trust me on this. You’ll understand after you sit through the credits.

Mullins has that tumultuous relationship with her family, which is due to the fact that she helped put her own brother Jason (played by Michael Rapaport) in jail and the rest of the family really never forgave her for it. See, it seems that Jason has just gotten home from jail and Mullins needs his help in a big case her and Ashburn are working on. She needs him to get close to the drug kingpin that he used to work for, so they can take him down  

This, my friends, is what is known in the movie industry as the inner-workings of a “plot.” The thing about “The Heat” is that it doesn’t really have a great deal of this plot thing. In fact, more and more movies these days are throwing plots by the wayside, for things like special effects and big, action set-pieces. That being said, remember “The Heat” is a “buddy cop comedy” and this means that plots are not all that important, but screenwriter Dippold does deliver enough of a coherent story so that the scenes that don’t involve (what I think are mostly improvised) comic moments are, at least, tolerable to watch.

Just remember, the point of this film – and films like it – are to make you laugh, first and foremost, not to overwhelm your brain with twists and turns and poignant character developments. Just sayin,’ is all.

In fact, if I can be brutally honest right now, I can barely remember that much about the plot line of “The Heat.” Basically, what I remember about the film is laughing – out-loud – during a major portion of the film. McCarthy and Bullock (I’ll reiterate it one more time) are a brilliant comedic pair. Their timing is impeccable, they balance each other out, and they embrace their roles in the film. This is a big deal for Bullock, who is used to being the focal point of every movie she’s in and although she gets top-billing in “The Heat,” she constantly plays second fiddle to McCarthy throughout the film.

Actually, now that I think of it, all of this seems familiar. First off, take into account all of the split-second cameos from familiar stars – including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Kaitlin Olson as a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking Russian, Arrested Development standout Tony Hale (in a hilarious sequence) as “The John” who gets chased around by McCarthy after his attempt at picking up a hooker goes wrong (mind you, when does it ever go right?) and rapper and YouTube sensation Spoken Reasons in his first feature film role as possibly the worst drug dealer in all of Boston.

As an added bonus, watch for Biff from “Back to the Future” (real name: Thomas F. Wilson) as McCarthy’s Boston P.D. boss and super-serious actor Demian Bichir (received an Oscar nomination in 2011 for “A Better Life”) as Bullock’s FBI superior.

QUICK SIDE NOTE: However, in quite possibly the most head-scratching casting decision ever made: comedian and Hollywood spoof-master (“Scary Movie,” “A Haunted House,” “Don’t be a Menace…” etc.) Marlon Wayans flatly plays the role of Bullock’s awestruck and love struck FBI co-worker and is, LITERALLY, not given even ONE humorous line to say during the whole film. I have NO IDEA why he was given this role or why he would want to even take this role. It is completely pointless and (Personally, I happen to think he’s pretty funny at what he normally does) is a waste of his talents. There, I said it.

Anyway, back to my epiphany. So, I noticed the amount of role players coming off the bench during this film. Then, you can add in the aforementioned way that McCarthy and Bullock play off each other. Last but not least, take into consideration the direction from Paul Feig and…. wait for it… you can compare “The Heat” to the 2013 NBA Finals performance of the champion Miami Heat. Okay, I know it’s a stretch, but hear me out.

McCarthy is like LeBron James – they both take over the game whenever they want and get everybody else involved with their creativity and vision. Bullock is like Dwayne Wade – they both were champions, way before James/McCarthy ever came, but still can get it done when called upon and become that go-to-guy/girl. Maybe, Marlon Wayans can be Chris Bosh – the name recognition is there, but the performance was lackluster and does not represent their best work. The all-star cast of “The Heat” is similar to the Miami Heat’s all-star bench – you got Kaitlin Olsons, your Tony Hales and your Michael Rapaports on one side and you got your Ray Allens, Mike Millers and Birdmen on the other. Then, you can liken Paul Feig to Erik Spoelstra – the steady leader who steers this ship of big names (and bigger egos) to the Promised Land. It’s the summer of the heat!!!

Heh, whaddya think? Eh… okay maybe it was a stretch. Especially that last line, which had, I believe, like a quadruple meaning attached to it. Get it? “The Heat” and the Heat and the heat of the summer – temperature-wise – all rolled into one sentence… ahh, forget it. I tried.

Basketball metaphors aside, “The Heat” is a slam dunk comedy. Okay, okay. Seriously, I just had to get one more in, I’ll stop now.

Basketball metaphors aside, “The Heat” doesn’t reinvent the “buddy cop” formula, but I’d be willing to bet that the ghosts of Tango, Cash, Riggs, Murtaugh, Agent J & K, and all of the other characters that have helped define this important subgenre are taking a minute out of their busy “buddy cop” schedule to applaud the efforts of “The Heat” and the characters of Mullins and Ashburn.

A small-budgeted comedy, like this, usually has the tendency to get lost and overlooked amongst the huge event films of the summer movie season, which made the decision to push back the release date of “The Heat” from April to the end of June a very strange one. I hope this does not seal the fate of this particular film. I would love to see this movie put a whoopin’ on the competition.

Especially, if you take into consideration that – if truth be told – this might be the best female “buddy cop” comedy to have ever been released. I can’t think of any other ones that are better than this one. In fact, I can’t come up with any other examples of a female “buddy cop” comedy… period.

So, to this I say (if you’re an NBA fan you’ll get this reference – if not, I’m sorry), “It’s about damn time.”

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