The Heat (Paul Feig, USA, 2013)

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Everyone is so happy to have a comedy that isn’t ugly, gross, adolescent, and stupid that they’re falling all over themselves to praise The Heat. Except The Heat is pretty ugly: do even comedies have to look like the side of a warship now? It’s also ugly in spirit: If Melissa McCarthy’s family in the film were Black or Hispanic instead of Irish, activists would rightly be up in arms; it’s one nasty stereotype of Boston Irish after another; and all put there to get you to laugh at their expense: aren’t they stupid, uneducated, vulgar, etc. etc. The film’s  also pretty gross; it’s all body humour — small nuts, things falling out of vaginas, etc. – except we’re supposed to praise Allah because it’s women being gross. As to adolescent, the film’s emotional moment is that Sandra Bullock was so unpopular in high school that only a teacher wrote on her year-book, so by the end, warm, ebullient, ‘down’ Melissa McCarthy writes something nice in it and claims her as a ‘sister’. But, you know, Sandra Bullock is old enough to be a grandmother several times over and she looks every year of it, face lifts or no. Isn’t she a bit old to still be worrying about, well the film says 1982, but there are doubters; and really, if at her time of life the only relationship in her life is her neighbour’s kitty…well I won’t go on. We can and do suspend disbelief.  The Heat is another of Bullock’s transformation narratives: she goes from being the kind of snarky, friendless, controlling person who’s always right to being soul-sister to Melissa McCarthy,  ‘earthy’ and ‘real’  but without having to get fat — neither the film nor Bullock is stupid. It’s a high-concept female buddy film that works; it does have plenty of belly laughs; and it does pass the Bedschel test with flying colours. Moreover, Bullock’s timing continues to be ace, Paul Feig times knows how to direct the gags, and Melissa McCarthy is the most joyous presence in American cinema today. It’s not a great comedy but  as a wise man once said, perhaps in Lubitsch’s To Be or Not To Be, ‘oh, I wouldn’t sneeze at a laugh’. The Heat offers plenty of reasons not to sneeze.

José Arroyo

One thought on “The Heat (Paul Feig, USA, 2013)

    […] such criteria, American movie comedy is in terrible shape. I thought The Heat earned its laughs but trafficked way too much in the crude, the base and the cheap. The level’s […]

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