July 2, 2013

The Heat

The Heat is terrific. Very very funny, and only some minor minor notes that they can fix for the home video release! My grade: A
An ideal blend of humor and action - director Paul Feig cites 48 HRS as a direct influence - I was also reminded of one of my favorite action buddy comedies Running Scared with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines.

Sandra Bullock tries a little too hard to be stiff and pedantic.It takes awhile, but her humanity emerges eventually. Melissa McCarthy is a force of nature. So funny, great in the dramatic moments as well, and a world-class swearer. The two of them together have terrific chemistry. A real treat to watch them work. My only gripes?
  • Lazy, old-fashioned plot mechanics: Right after Bullock's boss orders her to go to Boston, we see her in her car driving. We cut to one of those totally phony roadside signs which never exist in the real world: PROVIDENCE 33 BOSTON 81. These fake signs- which never look like real road signs, and always look like the crew stuck them in the ground five minutes before filming - are the laziest form of plot craftsmanship. Why is this shot included, when her boss just told her to go to Boston, and, the very next shot is aerial footage of Boston? This kind of "point the camera at a sign" storytelling mechanics happens at least one other time.
  • New In Town: In order for Melissa McCarthy to see Bullock's high school yearbook, and therefore, learn about her pathetic childhood, we're told the FBI shipped up all her belongings from NYC to Boston and rented a furnished apartment for her.  Without that unbelievable plot tool, there's no way McCarthy has a chance to see any of her stuff and begin to learn about her background. I guess making Bullock a stranger to the city was more important than a believable way of getting that yearbook in McCarthy's hands? Couldn't they have made Bullock's agent newly transferred to Boston, instead of just visiting town to crack one case?
  • The Old Car Bomb Twist: I've seen the old "car bomb twist" trick in a dozen movies since Apollonia blew up in The Godfather forty years ago. The format is simple. In a seemingly innocuous scene, a character climbs into a parked car. Often the person about to start the car is not the expected driver of the car. The character dialog is unrelated to the action, to distract from the real focus of the scene- the car that's about to blow up. The problem with scenes like this, it's hard to surprise the viewer, because the scene usually has no purpose besides blowing up a car, usually with a minor character in it. As the scene begins, I begin thinking, "Why is this shot of our lead characters walking to the car in the movie? Nothing is happening? Oh, I see, that guy is going to start their car and it's going to blow up." five seconds later, I am proven right.
The best job of subverting this I've seen is in the first Mission: Impossible movie, where Tom Cruise is sprinting towards a parked car when it blows up, rocking him back on his heels. In the Lethal Weapon parody National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1, Estevez and Jackson's car blows up outside a restaurant. "Good thing I used valet service," says Estevez. Jackson hails a taxicab, which also blows up. That's a twist I can believe in.
Theater Notes: Can I pull off four movies in five days? While my wife and son are visiting family in NJ, I am going to try! I saw The Heat, along with 10 other people, at the 10pm show on a Tuesday night at the Somerville Theater, on the big screen.