The Heat (2013)

The Heat (2013)

Buddy comedies… they’re nothing new. The formula is tried and tested. Normally, you take a tight ass and a slob / someone that doesn’t play by the rules and pair them together. The hilarity should therefore ensue. It’s quite honestly one of the most established forms of comedy you’ll get. I was going to list some examples here, but you’re all well aware of the films, right? Come on… I don’t need to list them. Good? Good. Glad we’re on the same page. That being said, if you’re going to attempt to pull it off in 2013, you best be packing some high calibre comedy ammo in that script, or have some lead actors in place that can pull it off with aplomb. This brings us to The Heat, which is conforming to every buddy film stereotype under the sun. Hell, it’s even a cop-based buddy movie… but with two solid female leads and the guy that wrote Bridesmaids behind it… is it hot, tepid or frankly cold and damp?

The Heat focuses on the team up of Agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) – the uptight FBI Special Agent that doesn’t really get along with many people, but is amazing at her job, and Detective Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) – the down-and-gritty Boston beat cop that has her own “unique” approach to police work. Between them they need to locate and take down a drug kingpin… and that’s it. That’s the plot, but it’s a comedy, so I’m not sure what you were expecting from it really. That’s not to short change the film though, as it does have its narrative twists and turns, but overall it’s a pretty straight-up, down-the-line, by-the-numbers, lots-of-hyphens type of film. Does it suffer from that? Well… a little.

The Heat (2013)

The strength of this film MUST rest with its lead actors, and thankfully both Bullock and McCarthy are on form here. Bullock always does a good job of playing the naive one in a “buddy” film, with Demolition Man springing to the forefront of my mind… damn, now that’s a good movie. Anyway, back on track, she’s solid and reliable, as always. McCarthy, similarly is establishing herself as a comedic force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. The fact that so much of the scripting in this is ad-libbed is also gratifying to know, as I think it keeps things fresh and lets the emotions run wild with the actors. All that being said… I just didn’t find the film overly funny. It had its scenes that made me smile, but nothing really made me guffaw.

Maybe this all comes back to the hard and cold fact that I’m a hard taskmaster to please. In my screening, a good chunk of the audience were whooping and laughing at absolutely anything. If I’m honest, I think they’d also have got equally excited at watching water hit the windscreen on a car. They just seemed quite simple. I’m not joking… there’s a scene where Melissa McCarthy drinks a pint. Nothing funny: just drinking. That’s apparently funny. I clearly don’t “get it”. Maybe McCarthy is a lot like Zach Galiafianakis – you either find every one of his motions hysterical, or you really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. This isn’t to say I don’t find McCarthy funny, as I do, but I don’t hang off of her every motion.

Oh they so don't get along... I wonder if that'll change?

Oh they so don’t get along… I wonder if that’ll change?

The real issue with the film is inherent to the genre… it’s all too predictable. The characters are flawed, and you immediately know what the outcome will be. There are no elaborate tricks or techniques to shake up the formula; it all plays out exactly as you’d expect. The film therefore needs to fall back on its humour, which for the most part seems to please general audiences, although I did find myself lacking as I’ve just babbled on about. Speaking of babbling, I’m also finding myself running out of words to describe this film. Perhaps that’s the true issue with the film… I just struggled to really care about it. I felt like I could have walked out 1/3 of the way in and predicted everything that’d happen. Even the jokes, thanks to the trailers giving away the big laughs. With that said… let’s take this review off the heat and let it cool shall we?

The Heat has its moments, and thanks to two strong leads will keep fans of raucous comedies entertained. However, for the rest of us seeking something a bit more cerebral or interesting it falls short of the mark. The plotting is too predictable and the jokes sometimes just feel too cheap to really enthral The Phage. Maybe that’s due our Britishness in not finding a Boston accent *the* most hilarious thing you’ve ever heard (it’s not)… that forms a good 5 minutes of joke space in this film, for instance. So whilst not a failure, The Heat certainly only delivers a luke-warm slice of cinematic comedy.

I almost wonder if there’s a book in Hollywood containing the “A-Z of Buddy Cop Clich├ęs”. Whilst The Heat didn’t conform to every single stereotype, it hardly reinvented the wheel either. Hell, even adding a third lead character would make for a slightly different “buddy” film. Or maybe Me, Myself and Irene already pseudo did that with Jim Carrey‘s split personalities? Who knows! Regardless, I’ve already made my “heat” based puns in the previous paragraph… so let’s just end this shall we? See… even I can repeat lines, just like The Heat, really…

Phage Factor:

2.5 Stars

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Identity Thief (2013)

Identity Thief banner

Identity theft is no small matter nowadays. Everyone seems to have their cards cloned. I know that I did a year ago! You’d think it’d be hard to pass yourself off as The Phage, as I’m essentially some weird shape with some legs… but I guess there are certain pockets of breeding in the UK that would yield an orange offspring with spikey legs. In a nutshell, identity theft is something that everyone is starkly aware of nowadays and as such is ripe for the glorious Hollywood treatment right? So how does Identity Thief cope? Does it actually have an identity of its own, or is it just some pale imitation of a superior product?

Sometimes you can’t but show favouritism towards something. You know you shouldn’t, but you do. Maybe you’ve got a child that you prefer more than his/her brother/sister? You clearly don’t tell them, but deep down… you do. The same goes for films when they star someone you’re quite partial to. See, I’m a massive fan of Jason Bateman. I love his style of comedy thanks in no small part to the fantastic Arrested Development. Sure, he’s always essentially playing the same role, but if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. And don’t fix it he does. Wow, that’s confusing to type. I’m sure I’ve broken 100 grammatical rules there. So when I saw that he was the lead in Identity Thief I was immediately interested in the film… but…

Identity Thief (2013)

OK, before I delve into the review, let’s give everyone a quick synopsis. Not that it’s needed. If you look at the poster and the title of the film, it should all be pretty apparent right? Jason Bateman plays Sandy Patterson – a good guy. He pays his bills, works in banking and tries to do right by his family. However, all this goes to hell in a handbasket when he has his identity stolen by some deranged woman in Florida (Melissa McCarthy). She racks up a ton of bills and arrest warrants; thus throwing Sandy’s life into turmoil. So what does he do? Well, he heads out to confront his female imposter in order to get his life back. With hilarious consequences.

The trouble with this film is it’s essentially way too long and relies on very weak jokes to keep it plodding along. As I’ve already confessed, I enjoy seeing Bateman on-screen, but not even this was enough to keep me engrossed in the movie. It just kept on going… and going… and going. At some points it felt like I was watching Due Date again, but minus the obvious tension of Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis’ relationship. The film also resorts to a saccharine tale of redemption and how one person can reform their character. OK, I should have been acutely aware this is what would happen, as it’d be hard for the film to take many other paths. And now that I think of it, I can’t actually see another way that the film would progress, but it still irked me. It seemed jarring.

The premise of identity theft should be ripe for some great send-ups, but the plot seems to have had its own identity stolen and replaced with that of a mindless pseudo-action/chase movie, replete with some extremely bizarre sex scenes and car chases. This… I wasn’t expecting.

Who are these people? Don't worry... they're superfluous.

Who are these people? Don’t worry… they’re superfluous.

Having said ALL of this, I still thought Jason Bateman was great. I love his style of acting and this is another fine example of him at his best. It’s just a shame that the script and plotting are so weak. Similarly, Melissa McCarthy is great in her role too; it’s just a shame her character is so vapid for the majority of the film and then unquestionably deep for the final third. Although she’s clearly a great comedic actress, I just grew tired of the gags they had her perform. As I’ve said previously – they just go on… and on… and on. She needed a more well-rounded character or at least some more impressive set pieces to allow her to flex her chops.

Ultimately, Identity Thief falls down in two key areas: laughs and plotting. It lacks both. What you’re left with is a film that’s confused about what it wants to be: a jack of all trades, master of none. It tries its hand at action, raunch and slapstick, but falls down in most of those areas. Hell, even if it worked in the slapstick department, I still wouldn’t be impressed, as that’s not really our favoured style over here at Film Phage.

It’s quite ironic that Identity Thief lacks identity. Maybe it was an extremely cunning and meta joke by the film makers here. Yes, surely that’s what they were thinking when they put together the movie. Surely? Oh… it wasn’t? This is meant to be an enjoyable comedy? Oh… alright then. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen worse movies in recent months, but this is clearly just a movie you’d watch “if it was on TV”. Look out though – it’ll bill itself as a comedy… it’s all lies. Spurious lies.

Phage Factor:

2 Stars