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Friday, 28 June 2013 09:28

'The Heat' offers derivative humor with a bullet and a Bullock

'The Heat' offers derivative humor with a bullet and a Bullock
Written by Martha K. Baker
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About this Media...

  • Director: Paul Feig
  • Dates: Opens June 28, 2013

Yes, it's derivative, and, yes, it's violent with bullets going through foreheads, bang in the bangs. Yes, it's vulgar with the F bomb dropping like acid rain. But "The Heat" is also delightful. Just watching Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock bash each other, verbally and physically, is worth a lot.

"The Heat" refers to the professions of two police officers, Ashburn and Mullins. Ashburn is with the FBI, hoping for a promotion. Mullins is with the Boston police department, hoping for a collar. The two officers meet in a jail cell, where Ashburn is interrogating Mullins's collar, but no one interrogates Mullins's collars, so Ashburn feels the wrath of Miss Mullins. That wrath comes wrapped in Boston Irish anger, fueled by a house full of brothers with the gentility of a pit bull in a ring of fresh flesh. The two officers do not see eye to eye on this case, nor on anything.

As befits any version of Oscar and Felix, Mullins and Ashburn are diametrically opposed. Ashburn wears a grey flannel suit, cut to her slim lines; all her tops are the same simple silk. She keeps her hair back with one bobby pin. Mullins, on the other hand, shops at Jabba Outlet Huts: she wears a weskit over a shirt out of her pants, which come from the Wamser-Ferman tent store. Ashburn goes by the book, which she has studied and references at every opportunity. Mullins goes by gut, of which she has a surplus. Ashburn has one expression on her steel-cut face: she rarely cracks what might generously be called a smile, whereas Mullins is Silly Putty on a stick, her hair matted around her hot head. Ashburn speaks euphemistically of "bull poop"; Mullins cusses like a cop. They compete to get through doors -- no Gaston and Alphonse routine for them.

But they are forced to work together, and it doesn't really matter what plot devices screenwriter Katie Dippold came up with to force this twinning. Dippold has written for TV sitcoms like "Parks and Recreation." Despite the script, much of the women's interchanges come from improvisation, especially McCarthy's, but McCarthy is good at making the lines fit. The Spanx scene is hilarious as is the scene involving the Boston "r" or lack thereof as spoken by Mullins' brother, played by Nate Cordry. Jane Curtain plays Mullins' mother, a brief but fine bit. Michael Rappaport plays a jailed Mullins brother well, and Marlon Wayans is good as an officer smitten with Ashburn.

The Mullins family is the sort that would take a child to see a film like "The Heat," but -- memo to the folks in front of me with the 7-year-old -- it is not a movie for children. It is a film for people who like to laugh, loud and long -- like Mullins. 

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