Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Heat

Directed by: Paul Feig

Produced by: Peter Chernin
Jenno Topping

Screenplay by: Katie Dippold

Starring: Sandra Bullock
Melissa McCarthy

Music by: Michael Andrews

Cinematography by: Robert Yeoman

Editing by: Brent White
Bellah Mae
Jay Deuby

Studio(s): Chernin Entertainment
Dune Entertainment

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Release date(s): June 28, 2013 (United States)
July 31, 2013 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 117 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $43 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $218, 471, 431

Yep, it's one of my perennial and perfunctory statements about my status as an ever-returning film critic. If it seems like I've been neglecting my work in this department, well, it's because I have. In the past few weeks, I've worked security at the Creamfields, Electric Picnic and Bestival music festivals, so it's like I've been on bloody tour, and anytime I was at home, it was a case of (as the French say) "Je suis fatigant." Speaking of home, the only time I have seen movies recently has been on McCready Family Values outings, as along with The Heat, I have seen What Maisie Knew, and tonight I have the dubious honour of taking my mother and sister to see Grown Ups 2. Much as I try to be objective on this one, I just have Ozzy's voice on Black Sabbath's God Is Dead? going on about rising "up from my tomb into impending doom..." So, for those wishing to observe the gradual push towards a consistent pace of reviewing movies, while finding out my, oh my - (SLAPS SELF ON WRIST: George Takei, registered trademark!), opines on whatever falls under my gaze, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for dissection is The Heat, an action-comedy in the vein of the now-vintage 1980s buddy films in all their various machinations such as Lethal Weapon (which, incidentally, is a lot darker than people remember it being),  48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop, Turner & Hooch et al. The origins of this subgenre of movies involved two character who are polar opposites can be traced back to the great Laurel And Hardy (a shout-out to the boys at Lucky Dog Theatre Productions, who I had the pleasure of meeting while working backstage at Pig's Big Ballroom at Bestival). This particular variation came from screenwriter Katie Dippold's intention to write female characters as the two leads. Directed by Paul Feig, who has previous experience female casts in Bridesmaids, The Heat stars Sandra Bullock and Bridesmaids star (and Oscar nominee) Melissa McCarthy as FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn and Boston Detective Shannon Mullins respectively, who are forced to work together to take down a mobster. Comprende?

Starting with the good about The Heat, the best thing going for it is that it is an excellently cast movie with regards to the two leads. Bullock and McCarthy have a great rapport and superb screen chemistry. It's not particular inventive casting (Bullock and McCarthy are proven commodities in their parts as overexcitable/neurotic schtick and brash, loud/foul-mouthed brute), but the fact that the two manage to gel together and deliver their lines at a flawless pace is a commendable thing indeed. It's a fast script, and there are so many times that the two leads, who spend much of the film bickering, really insult and bite into each other, the only thing being in common is that neither is fazed by the other, which only seems to spur them on even more. McCarthy is quite a formidable presence when she's getting stuck in, and Bullock just takes it on the chin. If there's one reason you should see The Heat, it's to see Bullock and McCarthy as an onscreen duo. The film, as mentioned, is directed by Paul Feig, who made Bridesmaids, a very fine comedy from a couple of years ago, for which McCarthy was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Once again, he understands that the strengths of his cast and wisely leaves them to their devices, while hiding their weaknesses and accentuating their positives. While Feig may never get the reputation of an auteur (unless pseudo-feminists adopt him into their sistren), he most definitely knows how to get the best out of his cast, as nobody comes off looking particular the worse for wear. Finally, while not perfect (more of which...), Dippold's script has some real zingers, the scenes that don't involve expository details and just have Bullock and McCarthy shooting from the hip are often uproariously funny. It is at these moments, which are not few and far between, that The Heat is at it's best.

( due time) That's not an addendum, but rather a continuum, for although I liked The Heat and found it oftentimes very funny, one cannot fail to recognise it's fundamental flaws, which lie in the double-edged sword of Dippold's script. Some critics have overanalysed the feminist qualities of the film, in that it's an action-comedy with two females in the lead, yadda, yadda, yadda, but that doesn't change the fact that the plot itself is entirely derivative and predictable. It consists of just about every trope and cliche that emerges from the buddy cop film genre, and, frankly, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. Furthermore, like Feig's previous Bridesmaids, it's too long (about twenty minutes), and the end of second act 'dramatic tension' interlude does nothing to add to the film, especially when the tension is more or less non-existent and the outcome pre-determined. I was listening to a BBC Radio Five Live review of the film with James King, whose opening line that the film was "simultaneously both incredibly familiar and refreshingly different," and I think that is as good a summary of the film as any. 

Not to take away from my own work (it'd be an act of gross false modesty to do), but it is kinda hard to look at the film any other way than King laid it out. It certainly has it's problems in a script which does not really have a modicum of originality to it and like Paul Feig's previous movie it's twenty minutes too long, but hey, I've gotta say that overall I came out of The Heat mostly satisfied. Paul Feig, while he's never gonna be recognised as an auteur, understands the positives of the people he's working with, and lets Bullock and McCarthy take appropriate centre stage. Dippold's script, while problematic, is at it's best while the two leads, who have a fantastic amount of chemistry to the point that I probably think the film is better than it is, are just left to their own bickering devices. Underneath the surface material, there might not be much there, but the surface material is entertaining enough to convince to believe in the illusion.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.3/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Relaxed (just happy to have a bit of time off work and chill out)

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