Despite actors’ best efforts, ‘The Heat’ fails to captivate audience

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“The Heat” had all the right ingredients for a comedy. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, with a supporting cast that includes Marlon Wayans and Michael Rapaport, try to carry a movie whose script jumps wildly across stereotypical gender roles both in the workplace and in the bedroom, familial conflict and friendship. While there is a comedic chemistry between the two female leads, there are few moments of genuine amusement, and the talent of the cast is not enough to keep the film afloat.

Bullock plays Special Agent Sarah Ashburn, and her character rarely lets those around her forget that title. While Bullock as an FBI agent is not new territory, fans of the “Miss Congeniality” films will be disappointed by her role in “The Heat.” Like Bullock’s character in “Miss Congeniality,” Ashburn is awkward and stiff, dedicated to her job and a bit clueless in regard to any kind of social interaction.

The introductory scenes depict her showing up her male colleagues during a home raid. As the only woman in uniform, it is made clear that the men she works with cannot stand her. If the audience has not yet grasped that Ashburn is not liked, it is spelled out for us when she approaches her boss about a promotion and he explains that he has received many complaints about her arrogance. Her confusion to his response makes her character annoying rather than endearing. Even Bullock’s sharp comedic timing cannot overcome that negative impression.

McCarthy as Detective Shannon Mullins does not fare much better in the script. A loud, trash-talking, near bully of a police officer, it is made obvious very quickly she intimidates both those she apprehends and those she works with. During her introductory scene, Mullins uses extreme violence while arresting a man who is soliciting a prostitute. Although her interaction with the man’s wife, whom she calls on his cell phone, could have some audience members cheering that the scummy husband receives some comeuppance, her vicious handling of him and the overly vulgar language will have them simultaneously cringing.

While it is clear the script writers intended her to be seen as a woman who has created an overly tough exterior through a lifetime of what she terms “disappointments,” Mullins comes off as ridiculous and almost sadistic. Although McCarthy gives the role all she’s worth, which is quite a bit for those who have seen her in other roles, her best is sadly not enough to save the film.

On the surface, “The Heat” seems to want to challenge gender roles and break boundaries. Drawing upon the typically male genre of buddy-cop films, “The Heat” tries to show women with stereotypically masculine traits as endearing.

There are moments in the movie that have the potential to go much deeper. The movie could have explored references to a woman’s age when a bad guy remarks that Ashford is the first woman over 40 to turn him on. There are also run-ins with McCarthy’s past one-night stands who wish to take things further with her that could have opened the door to examining society’s attitudes about a woman’s sex appeal with respect to age and body size. The script, however, tries too hard to hit upon too many points, and whatever doors could have been opened are lost in a swarm of foul language, sexual innuendo and violence.

I give this movie 3 out of 5 stars.

E. Morgenstern is a graduate student in English. Please send comments to edge@kstatecollegian.com.

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