McCarthy, Bullock earn big laughs; plus ‘White House Down.’
You have to give director Paul Feig credit. He knows what women want in a comedy, which he proved with Bridesmaids, while at the same time bringing enough men along for the ride to create an unexpected box office hit in 2011.
With his follow-up flick, The Heat, working with a screenplay by Katie Dippold (Parks and Recreation), he has done it again. The Heat takes a standard male action/comedy template, the odd couple cop movie, and blows it up with an estrogen bomb named Melissa McCarthy. McCarthy, who became a movie star after Bridesmaids, is uproarious as a foul-mouthed, sexually confident and determined Boston police detective named Shannon Mullins who is asked to team up with the uptight, annoyingly-by-the-book FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, played by Sandra Bullock, to bring down a drug lord.
This latter character is right in Bullock’s wheelhouse and she generously plays straight woman to McCarthy’s delightfully inventive insanity, with the occasional opportunity to grab a laugh with a witty aside. Both are experts at physical comedy and are given numerous opportunities to display this talent including the cop standard: getting drunk together at a bar and letting their hair down (of course McCarthy’s was down already).
Instead of tasteless sexual conquest jokes, there are tasteless albino jokes (a D.E.A. agent on the case is one), and Mullins’ dysfunctional family is a laugh-a-minute running gag that is sprinkled into the action just enough not to overdo it. The plot is merely a springboard for the laughs, and I also enjoyed the music and opening credits, which paid tribute to classic cop TV shows of the 1970s.
McCarthy is now officially a national treasure who faces down an Oscar-winning actress and shows no mercy, in part because Bullock is smart enough to stand aside and let her get busy.
More ‘White House’ Woes
White House Down is an enjoyable popcorn movie that had the misfortune of following another “White House with terrorists” movie earlier this year, Olympus Has Fallen. Despite being far superior to the dark, ugly Olympus, and featuring higher profile actors in the president/protector roles (Jamie Foxx, Channing Tatum vs. Gerald Butler, Aaron Eckhart), White House Down has been lost in the shuffle of better movies. Still, it is an enjoyable wallow in mindless popcorn fun directed by a master of the blockbuster, Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012).
This movie follows the “Die Hard at the White House” template with Tatum as a military veteran and DC cop who is at the White House for a job interview with the Secret Service that does not go well. Things get even worse when he and his daughter are on the White House tour when the bad guys arrive and bullets start flying. Tatum’s likable lug has to combine saving the president and his daughter, and Foxx has fun playing a president with no military training who is forced to become a badass in a hurry. He and Tatum provide more humor then one would expect from this genre. Also on tap in solid supporting roles are James Woods, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), Richard Jenkins and Jimmi Simpson (Breakout Kings).
White House Down is worth a trip to the multi-plex even if the plot gives off a déjà vu vibe.
Directed by Paul Feig • Rated R
1/2 White House Down
Directed by Roland Emmerich • Rated PG-13
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