After going a little into left field with my movie reviews last month, I thought it might be good to bring things back to normal. This month, I’ve got two movies from earlier this year that you may or may not have seen but should at least serve to give you a base line to judge my more “esoteric” movie reviews by. First up . . .
The Heat (2013) [Rated R]
I was actually pretty excited to see this one as I am a huge buddy-cop film fan so when my buddy dropped by with this on DVD and some microwave popcorn, this sounded like a great afternoon. As I started the popcorn, my friend put in the DVD and said, “You’re going to love this, Collin. It’s like a female Lethal Weapon!” That’s when I started getting worried. Why does a movie with female leads have to be the “female” anything? But I tried to let that go and went into the movie with as close to an open mind and open heart as I could.
I’m glad I did because there was a lot that was good. I’m not normally a fan of Sandra Bullock but I really enjoyed her in this. Bullock and Melissa McCarthy have great on-screen chemistry. McCarthy is a wonderful comedic actress and I fully expected her to be my favorite part of the movie. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, but we’ll get to the negatives in a second. I had to do a double take when Marlon Wayans first came on screen but he is good in this as well. The plot was pretty standard for a buddy-cop film but had just enough fun in it to keep me interested. There were plenty of laughs and overall I enjoyed the movie.
But here’s the thing. I get that I am supposed to find Melissa McCarthy’s character to be borderline unlikable at the beginning of the movie. She’s loud, obnoxious, curses far too much . . . She’s the “loose cannon” in the buddy-cop formula. The problem is, by the time the movie got to where the “loose cannon” has learned that maybe they need to tone down their act and that their new partner is a little right too, I didn’t care. Maybe that’s a tribute to McCarthy’s acting abilities but her character is never given the opportunity in the beginning to be anything more than a jerk so when she does finally lighten up, I just didn’t care. To me, that seems more like lazy filmmaking.
This isn’t to say The Heat wasn’t enjoyable. When the jokes do land, they are hilarious. It was a good way to spend an afternoon with my friend even if we almost got into a fight because she ate way more than half of the popcorn. It just feels like director Paul Feig knew his two stars would assure box office success so he just rushed it out the door. Feig forgets the thing that makes Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon so good. Donner gives you time to learn to love both Riggs and Murtaugh. You learn enough about them and their backstory to care. Unfortunately for McCarthy and Bullock, you aren’t given that same time in The Heat.
Don’t think I don’t like movies with hard-to-love characters. Check out the next review. But, it’s a hard to walk a tightrope. A little too much to either side and you fall to your death. I’m inclined to think that it was the direction and scripting that caused The Heat to fail to live up to its potential. Calling it the “female” anything isn’t fair. I would have given this movie that same rating had it been two men. The movie doesn’t fail or succeed because of the sex of the main players. It succeeds and fails because of the script and the direction the players were given.
6.5 paws out of 10
The World’s End (2013) [Rated R]
Next up, we have The World’s End which also happens to be the end of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s Cornetto trilogy. If you have seen either of the other two parts, Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, you have a good idea of what is in store. Sort of. It’s still a mix of genres. It’s still funny. They still have a shot where someone leaps over a fence. But there is something a little bittersweet in The World’s End that is missing in the other two.
And then there’s the main character. Simon Pegg plays Gary King, a 40-year-old man who is still mentally and emotionally trapped in his teens, who decides to get his buddies together to complete a 12 pub crawl through their old hometown. The other guys have grown up and moved on with their lives so King lies and cons them into joining him. As they come together in their old stomping grounds, the others start to realize what King has done. The past begins to catch up with them all as they run across people they once knew but something is strange about these old acquaintances.
What I find most interesting about the movie is that Pegg’s character is maddening through the entirety of the film. King is manipulative, obnoxious and just so generally unpleasant that you want to punch him. King needs to accept that he has grown up and that it is time to live life like an adult, except he never does. In the end, King, while a little wiser, is still the same guy he was all along. The crazy thing is, by the end of the film, that may be the most important thing about him.
What separates Pegg’s character from McCarthy’s character in The Heat is not gender or commitment to the performance but the script and the direction. While Pegg’s King is annoying, he is also desperately trying to reconnect with a part of his life he has missed. It’s the beating heart that Lethal Weapon has and what The Heat is missing. That’s what makes The World’s End a better movie than The Heat even if it wasn’t as financially successful.
7.5 paws out of 10
Do me a favor, will you? Watch both of these and let me know if you think I am crazy. The thing is, I really wanted to like The Heat more.