Friday, June 28, 2013

F-bombing, raucous Melissa McCarthy dominates ‘The Heat’

By Steve Crum

Were funny man Steve Allen still alive, what would he think of Melissa McCarthy? Two of Allen’s best selling books analyzed comedians, and his last book, Vulgarians at the Gate, blasted the deterioration of comedy and the mass media overall due to...well, vulgarity. In the 12 years since that book was published, foul language has become commonplace on TV and in movies. Just what Allen feared.

The Heat, starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock as law enforcement buddies, is McCarthy at her bawdiest. The f-bomb isn’t just used, it is part of McCarthy’s character’s breathing process. Frankly, after the 38th f-you, it had gone beyond boring. The word itself is used an incredible 190 times, so put that in your Guiness Book. Yet there were many at the screening--puzzlingly, mostly women--who howled with laughter each and every time McCarthy blasted profane. 

Katie Dippold’s cop buddy movie plot is saved only by director Paul Feig’s choice to let McCarthy veer from her lines to improvise, which is her forte. That the improvisations tend to build in crassness is also her forte. They sound spontaneous because they are, making Melissa McCarthy the Robin Williams of the potty mouth set. She’s not as outright sleazy as standup Lisa Lampanelli, but she reaches. Feig undoubtedly knew McCarthy’s manic schtick talent before he directed her in Bridesmaids. Her penchant for pratfalls is unique among female comics, reminiscent of rotund comics Chris Farley and Fatty Arbuckle.

So goes The Heat, in which McCarthy’s bar fighting and wrestling with seedy bad guys are punctuated by endless f-bombings. McCarthy portrays Boston undercover Detective Shannon Mullins, whose daily regimen includes stakeouts and takedowns of local drug pushers. FBI Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is tracking an elusive Russian drug lord centered in Boston, so the two law enforcers are teamed up. The impetus of the story is that Ashburn and Mullins are total opposites in style and personality. 

Ashburn is straight laced and by the book. Her arrogance and showboating have made fellow agents avoid her as a friend or colleague. She is bucking for promotion to head of her division, but even her soon departing boss cannot stand her braggadocio. “No wonder she’s single,” an agent tells another. Her existence is a mundane private life without any close friends. 

Then there is Officer Mullins, who is raucous, instinctive, and bullies her suspects. She is so macho she snacks on large, red peppers. Well known and respected in her community, Mullins is pretty much out of control down at her precinct. She has little respect for her captain. In fact, a scene inside the captain’s office develops into Mullins’ tirade about the size of his testicles...shouted in a lengthy McCarthy riff that is shamelessly hilarious. Yes, I laughed. 

It becomes clear why Detective Mullins acts the way she does. Her large family behaves the same way. We first see them gathered around the dining room table, cursing, shouting, and punching each other. 

From the get-go, Mullins and Ashburn despise each other. I will not divulge their relationship at film’s end. If you’ve seen other buddy cop movies, you will predict the conclusion as I did. 

Did I mention the movie’s gangster rap soundtrack, heavy on f-bombs? Consider it mentioned.

GRADE on a Scale of A to F: D+
The edited trailer to The Heat:

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