The Heat (R, 20th Century Fox)

film the-heat_smFair warning: You might laugh so hard you pee a little.




film the-heat

If you spend most of your free time watching movies, all it takes is a two-minute preview to get a feeling about an upcoming release. Bad movies are usually pretty evident right away, but every other kind of film (the “meh” movies, the good ones, and the amazing ones) can be tricky. Are all the good parts of the flick in the trailer? I’ve been burned enough times to be forever wary of previews that give me the new-movie tingles.

Previews for The Heat didn’t really impress me, but I could tell one thing: This was going to be an either/or proposition. Most people will either love it to death or petition the theater owner for a refund after seeing it. Thankfully, I loved it. And I think all action comedy fans will, too. Unless they hate creatively foul cursing. Or forced tracheotomies in Denny’s dining rooms.

No one likes Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock). Sure, she’s a really good FBI agent, but she never lets anyone forget it (even the drug-sniffing dogs). No one likes Detective Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), either. She’s, well, so committed to her job that she’s mean, belittling, and a hair’s breadth away from insanity.

When Ashburn is sent to Boston in search of a drug lord for the feds, she’s also trying to prove to her boss that she can play well with others. Unfortunately for her, the first person she needs to talk to is a recent arrest of Mullins’. When Ashburn and Mullins meet, it’s hate at first sight. Lucky for us.

I’m not saying The Heat is a revolutionary buddy cop movie. In fact, the basic plot is pretty standard; Two law enforcement officers with very opposing styles have to work together to catch the big bad kingpin. What’s special about The Heat, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, is that the plot doesn’t even matter. It makes enough sense so that you can free your mind and concentrate on laughing.

That, friends, is a blessing, because the laughs come fast, hard, and frequently. The Heat is rare among modern comedies in that it stays funny from beginning to end. The laughs never lag; whenever it’s not funny, that’s on purpose, not because a joke fell flat or the tone changed suddenly. Fair warning: You might laugh so hard you pee a little.

The artistically profane insults are some of the best I’ve heard lately—“tattle-tits” and “contain your areola” are two of the milder examples. It’s impossible to tell how much was scripted or improvised, but the depth of ridiculous phrases raises comedic insults to an art form.

Most of the fun is due to McCarthy’s absolute commitment to every insane thing her character says and does. She’s completely unafraid to go to the extreme, and that makes it all the more easy for Bullock to play the “straight woman.” After all, it doesn’t take much to be the normal one when your partner is willing to take a perp down with a watermelon and yells things like “Who closes the door to take a shit?”

Bullock and McCarthy work well together. McCarthy has mastered manic comedic intensity, and has so far avoided the tendency of some comedic actors (Adam Sandler, I’m talking to you) to fall into a pattern where every inflection from every character in every movie is the same. Bullock is usually at her best playing characters who are frazzled but trying desperately to hang on, making Ashburn a perfect character for her.

We love to watch people lose control, and The Heat doesn’t treat Ashburn and Mullins with kid gloves because they’re female. They get banged up, captured, and stabbed, and make some big mistakes when things aren’t going their way. But even when those two get a handle on things, it’s still funny as hell. And that’s really all that matters. | Adrienne Jones

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