It gives me no pleasure to report that The Heat is an absolute nightmare. Despite a likable cast and crew tackling a situation ripe for big laughs, the actual product is lazy, unfunny, and a giant step backwards for its leading ladies. Looking to build on the success of Bridesmaids, director Paul Feig and writer Katie Dippold take the awkward, stutter-step comedy of Feig’s 2011 hit, but have neither Kristen Wiig’s solid content nor (surprisingly) performers equipped to construct a winning rapport. The resulting two unfocused hours is a giant missed opportunity and an all-around dreadful time at the movies.
Setting up the odd couple clash to come, The Heat begins with introductions of straight-laced FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and brash Boston cop Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) that capture each officer’s gist within seconds, yet are dragged out until the experience becomes a chore. Such is the film’s M.O., one of painful, overlong attempts at comedy dominated by ad-libs that hang in the air, unsupported by laughter. Bullock, clearly out of her element, doesn’t stand a chance in this improvised environment and isn’t helped by an unrestrained McCarthy, whose loudmouth, rant-heavy approach comes dangerously close to caricature status. Together, the opposing styles find no synergy and lead to the kind of disaster that seemed almost impossible from this talented pairing.
Composed of dreadful, half-assed sketches that often feel barely related to one another, the structure is an unfortunate mess. Little more than isolated excuses to be wacky, multiple bits take the story on inconsequential tangents, further diluting an already rickety narrative. While the dialogue that crops up as Ashburn and Mullins unwillingly join forces to take down a drug lord may have been funny during filming, the effect doesn’t translate to the screen. Investing heavily in sophomoric jabs at albinos and tired Boston stereotypes, the improv’s most glaring fallout is the shocking lack of chemistry it inspires between the two leads. When a mutual respect inevitably arises, it’s unearned and unconvincing, their mutual disgust morphing into best friend status in a snap. That the pair’s love for one another must be revealed through forced speeches is perhaps the clearest evidence of the film’s ineptitude and certifies an already long kaput film upon delivery.
On top of the comedic failures, The Heat extends the R-rating from its pointlessly crass language to a baffling inclusion of blood and violence. Apparently intended to heighten the dangers of law enforcement, the random gore further distracts from the story’s shortcomings, looks cheap, and is ineffective as a means of humor or terror. Along with wasting the talents of supporting stars Demián Bichir, Jane Curtin, Tony Hale (Arrested Development), Thomas F. Wilson (Back to the Future; Freaks and Geeks), and Zach Woods (The Office; In the Loop), the film wastes the audience’s time with its lack of preparation and clueless execution. Capable of far better work, the chief players deliver an improbable dud whose worthlessness may sting now, but will smart even more once its all but assured sequel is greenlit.
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude content and some violence.
The Heat is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.