When it comes to movie comics, everyone has his own tastes. People who adore Chaplin or Keaton often don’t get Harold Lloyd. Fans of Laurel and Hardy swoon their mention but shake heads over Abbott and Costello. Admirers of Abbott and Costello hold their noses over the Three Stooges.
And so it goes …
Melissa McCarthy may be the hottest movie comedian on the planet right now. “The Heat,” which pairs her abrasive, gonzo, blue-collar comic personality with Sandra Bullock’s buttoned-down, straight-arrow, Intellectual snob will undoubtedly mark her third hit in a row following “Bridesmaids” and “Identity Thief.”
Okay, I get why she is funny to some — many — people. But she reminds me all too well of Rosaenne Barr. And I never liked Roseanne Barr.
For those too young to recognize the reference, she like McCarthy came out of stand-up comedy to star in a hit late ’80s/early ’90s TV sitcom, “Roseanne,” which lasted nine years. And like McCarthy, Roseanne’s comic persona was an overweight, working-class loud-mouth who didn’t take shit from anyone and berated anybody who came within hearing range (a range that was considerable).
The main difference is that Barr worked on TV so she was loud-, not foul-mouthed. McCarthy has set up shop in R-rated film comedies so she can let rip with obscenities. This plays to a fan base that finds the sound of a grown adult spouting off like a potty-mouthed kid hilarious.
Barr never varied the approach to her character but then again she played the same one for nine seasons. After “Roseanne” finished though, she hasn’t acted much, opting instead for hosting talk shows, returning to stand-up and running for presidential nominations.
McCarthy too plays the same character in all her films including “The Heat.” In theory, these are different characters but the approach — a loud, profane and insulting personalty yet underneath beats the heart of a misunderstood lady — remains constant.
Will this last nine years?
She will if she varies the approach. In smaller roles, which, remember, “Bridesmaids” was and this would also include “This is 40″ and “The Hangover: Part III,” she can deliver comedy that knocks it out of the park.
Yet when she dominates the camera from opening titles to end credits, the braying becomes wearisome. In “The Heat,” she pretty much empties all her comedy chambers in the opening episode. After that she fires blanks.
This distaff buddy cop film couldn’t be simpler in objectives and execution. McCarthy plays disheveled, cursing, plain-clothes Boston police detective Shannon Mullins — well, tattered and soiled clothes is more like it — going up against Bullock’s by-the-book, primly dressed, snobbish FBI special agent Sarah Ashburn.
No comic bit is too obvious for this film, helmed by “Bridesmaid” director Paul Feig and written by TV sitcom writer Katie Dippold. Anything that looks like it will get a laugh gets repeated. A bar drinking sequence, for instance, goes on and on until everyone forgets the comic point.
You can walk out for popcorn and not miss a thing. You can also simply walk out and not miss a thing.
Character back stories indulge in false linkage. A foster kid, Ashburn, just has to be anal retentive and snooty. The kid from the streets and family dysfunction, Mullins, naturally is a slovenly ball-buster. Oh? Why not the other way around?
The rest of the cast serves as straight men for these two with the exception of Mullins’ family, who makes white-trash hillbillies look like aristocrats.
These straight men includes Mexican actor Demian Bichir as Bullock’s long-suffering boss, Marlon Wayans as an FBI agent with a soft spot for Ashburn and YouTube personality Spoken Reasons (aka John A. Baker Jr.) as a hapless pimp.
Others include Michael Rapaport as McCarthy’s drug-dealing brother and Jane Curtin, who nearly gets lost at family gatherings as her mom.
One possible miscalculation for a movie that is completely calculated from start to finish is the edgy violence. “The Heat” is not a police procedural, not unless the Keystone Kops are the model. Yet Feig and his cohorts insert an execution, sadistic knife torture and gory tracheotomy (the latter completely extraneous to the plot).
None of this is a laugh-getter.
But for now McCarthy is. And Bullock plays along, this character being but a variation of her unfeminine FBI agent in “Miss Congeniality.” (McCarthy has to rip and tear Bullock’s pant suit to make her even slightly hot to entice male baddies at a night club.)
Feig’s direction is matter-of-fact, ushering his stars on and off stage with a minimum of fuss so as to clear the deck for their routines. The film is undistinguished looking although cinematographer Robert Yeoman makes good work of Boston-area locations.
Opens: June 28, 2013 (20th Century Fox)
Production companies: 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demian Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Jane Curtin, Spoken Reasons, Dan Bakkedahl, Taran Killam, Michael McDonald, Tom Wilson
Director: Paul Feig
Screenwriter: Katie Dippold
Producers: Petr Chernin, Jenno Topping
Executive producers: Paul Feig, Michele Imperato Stabile, Dylan Clark
Director of photography: Robert Yeoman
Production designer: Jefferson Sage
Music: Mike Andrews
Costume designer: Catherine Marie Thomas
Editors: Brent White, Jay Deuby
R rating, 117 minutes