The Heat review

Once upon a time, some people decided to make a funny film. They sat down and came up with a couple of ill-matched characters who’d team up to fight crime. Their approaches would contrast and hilarity would, no doubt, ensue. Then one morning, one of them looked up from their cornflakes with an expression of awe that could only result from a truly great idea. A cartoon lightbulb actually appeared over their head. “I’ve got it” they said. “It needs more jokes!” Everyone in the room was struck dumb by the magnitude of this eureka moment. “More jokes, more funny!” they thought to themselves. “Why didn’t I think of that?!” On this simple but stunning moment of genius, a film was born.

Some time, shooting and back-slapping later, the footage made it to post-production. The dreaded cut. Execs filled the editing suite, huddled around a couple of monitors. The night was wearing on and the runners’ trays had been laden with cold beers rather than skinny lattes for quite some time now. One of the beer carriers – Jamie Thomas, 22, from Staffordshire – was entering the 14th hour of his shift. This wasn’t quite how he saw things going when he graduated with a 2:1 in Media and Communications. Still, he was getting to see everything first hand: the creative process, the magic in action. And what a chance to make contacts! But how to make an impression when dropping off drinks and clearing away pizza boxes? “Jokes!” he thought, “everybody likes jokes (and lots of them!)”.

As one of the execs let out an almighty yawn, Jamie saw his opportunity. This was it! “Maybe you shouldn’t bother cutting it at all, just call it a night,” he said. The execs all turned to face him and immediately his heart sank – he’d miscalculated. After what seemed like an eternity of awkward silence and stony stares, one of them rose to speak: “It’s brilliant!” he exclaimed. The others turned to each other, not sure what had just taken place. “Surely the bit where Sandra Bullock forgets her lines can go?” one muttered underneath his breath. “What about the bit where they left camera B on overnight?” Discussions were had, compromises made. We’ll never know quite what the set cleaners got up to in the small hours. The concept, however, remained: jokes, jokes, jokes (and lots of them).

I went along to see The Heat, none the wiser to the tale of its inception. I wanted to see if Melissa McCarthy had turned into the chubby Juno I’d seen on the side of practically every bus in London (she hasn’t; the ads have been shockingly airbrushed). It’s a buddy cop movie by the director of Bridesmaids, which I thought was fairly good. I’d watched the bulk of the setup – Bullock and McCarthy, cops with very different approaches to police work and personal hygiene, find themselves flung together when Bullock’s investigations leads her to McCarthy’s stomping ground – but as the film wore on I became uneasy. It started, I now see, when someone behind me let out an enormous laugh at the sight of the two characters hugging. “That’s not funny is it?” I thought anxiously to myself. It was then I realised that something very strange had happened – under the bewildering barrage of scatter-gun comedy, I had lost all concept of a good joke. I watched the rest of the film blankly, without reacting at all to the actor’s best slapstick efforts. There was an entire scene based around Bullock’s character not understanding a Boston accent! Nothing. Had I gone mad? Lost all touch with reality? Other people were laughing...

The credits rolled and I shot for the door. I was unnerved: The Shining freaked me out a bit, but this was something else. Then one morning, days later, I looked up from my cornflakes with an expression of awe. I had it! A cartoon lightbulb actually appeared over my head. I’d had, what the doctors in my five-step recovery programme now confirm to be, an “average joke meltdown”. I’ll spare you the science, but in layman’s terms it goes something like this: your brain contrives to put together a coherent picture of a jumbled and contradictory world. If you’re exposed to enough average jokes, you actually start to wonder if they might be funny, simply by virtue of their omnipresence. After all, why would someone fill a film with so many jokes if they weren’t that funny? Why wouldn’t somebody cut it down to a shorter length if there wasn’t really much material? Whether this is a new, revolutionary approach to comedy or simply the beginning of a very profitable spell for doctors running five-step programmes remains to be seen. One thing is clear: this kind of film should come with a health warning.

The Heat at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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