Guys vs. Gals: The Battle for Box Office Supremacy

Guys vs. Gals: The Battle for Box Office Supremacy

This past weekend featured one of the more interesting match-ups this summer movie season.  In one corner, you've got the second Die Hard-in-the-White-House flick this year, White House Down.  In the other, a female buddy cop comedy, The Heat.  Both are action comedies.  Both feature intriguing A-list star combos: Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum for WHD.  Sandra Bullock and the red-hot Melissa McCarthy for The Heat.

Based on the weekend box office receipts, The Heat clearly landed the first punch, raking in nearly $40 million compared to WHD's disappointing $24 million.  But, with the long 4th of July weekend coming up, and no real competition among adults (Despicable Me 2 is for the kids; The Lone Ranger is for . . . who exactly?), both films still have a lot of fight left in them.  So, which one should you see?  Ladies and gentlemen, to your respective corners.  Let the fight begin!

* * *

ROUND 1: COMEDY

THE HEAT: Reuniting McCarthy with her Bridesmaids director, Paul Feig, was a smart move.  Feig has a good grasp on what makes McCarthy funny - something the filmmakers of February's surprise hit, Identity Thief, did not.  McCarthy is at her foulmouthed best here, and though the movie relies a bit too heavily on just trotting out the f-bomb in lieu of actual jokes, there's still plenty of laughs to be had.  Bullock holds her own against McCarthy, and the two are an inspired match.

WHITE HOUSE DOWN: If you find this funny, which I most certainly didn't, half of that comes from the intentionally comic interplay between Foxx and Tatum, and the other half comes from director Roland Emmerich's (Independence Day, 2012) unintentionally silly and bombastic approach to every scene.

WINNER: The Heat

* * *

ROUND 2: ACTION

THE HEAT: None to speak of.  If Bullock and McCarthy wanted to play with the big boys and show audiences that females can have their own action comedy franchise too, they should have at least asked Feig and his cohorts to put some dynamic action scenes in the film.  As it stands, all of the cop work the ladies do here feels kindergarten.  There are no stakes, no danger - everything is played for laughs.

WHITE HOUSE DOWN: Well, if we're talking quantity over quality, WHD definitely takes the cake.  But I didn't think the action was interesting or exciting, and despite its $150 million budget, so many of the effects shots of helicopters and cars on the White House front lawn look totally fake.

WINNER: White House Down, by default.

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ROUND 3: THE FILM ITSELF

THE HEAT: Even if it doesn't quite fulfill its potential, this is one of the more fun summer offerings we've had so far.  Feig has grown a lot as a filmmaker since Bridesmaids, and I may be in the minority here, but I actually thought this was better than Bridesmaids.

WHITE HOUSE DOWN: This was sold to me as "big dumb summer fun" - and I usually can go for that type of thing.  They certainly nailed the "dumb" part.  This may be the dumbest movie you see this year.  It hits all the beats of Die Hard, without any of the wit, style, or filmmaking prowess.  It's a hair better than March's Olympus Has Fallen, but that's not saying much.

WINNER: The Heat

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ROUND 4: INTANGIBLES

THE HEAT: At 117 minutes, it runs too long.  Nice to see SNL's Taran Killem get some big screen work, even if he's mostly wasted in this.  The ending sets up a sequel, which I would definitely pay to see.

WHITE HOUSE DOWN: Has a surprisingly strong supporting cast, including Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Jason Clarke, and Richard Jenkins.  Note to Hollywood: don't cast James Woods as a surprise bad guy.  That's not surprising; that's just typecasting.

WINNER: The Heat

* * *

Ding ding ding.  That's it, folks!  Looks like we have a victor.  The Heat trounces White House Down in more ways than one.  Gals beat the guys, Hollywood takes note, and maybe (maybe) in two years, we'll have another movie anchored by two females.  The Heat makes a good case for having more of them.

The Heat: *** out of 5 stars

White House Down: ** out of 5 stars

 

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