Though there have certainly been female fronted buddy cop movies before, the genre is dominated by boys being boys. Leave it to Paul Feig to follow up his raunchy bachelorette-party comedy “Bridesmaids,” by adding a new tweak to this well-worn genre. And that’s really all “The Heat” is, a slight adjustment to the formula, but one that pays off big time. If you want to laugh really, really hard, and you’ve already seen “This is the End,” go see “The Heat.” It doesn’t break any new ground, but it is super goddamn funny.
You’ve seen this mismatched odd couple set up countless times before. Straight-laced FBI Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is a stickler for rules, and a bit of a show off to boot. Thus, no one likes her, despite her considerable professional success. She has one chance, one big case to crack, and she’ll get the promotion she so desperately wants. Unfortunately for her, this involves teaming up with slovenly, foul-mouthed Boston detective Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy). Neat and tidy meets loud and boorish. From there you know exactly how this scenario will unfold each and every step of the way. You know it’s coming—they bicker, they fight, they bond—but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.
If it wasn’t for McCarthy and Bullock, who are perfect together, “The Heat” would just be a generic cop versus robbers movie with a handful of chuckles sprinkled in. But lucky for all of us, Feig lets McCarthy completely off of her chain. I don’t know how much of Mullins’ dialogue is in Kate Dippold’s (“Parks and Recreation”) script, but you get the impression that McCarthy was allowed to run wild. Whatever the source, the result is hilarious. Like tears in your eyes, slapping the seat in front of you hilarious.
McCarthy proves once again that she’s one of the funniest people currently on the planet. And in Bullock she has the ideal foil. Not just a great straight man for McCarthy to play off of, the Oscar-winner is funny in her own right. Watching her stick-up-her-ass fed cave in and break bad is one of the real pleasures of “The Heat.” And this isn’t funny because it’s women doing the things you usually see men do, like look how crazy this role reversal is. It’s funny because McCarthy and Bullock, and the material, are just that damn good.
As fantastic as Bullock and McCarthy are together, there are a ton of fantastic bit players—some that have actual characters, other that show up for a single scene before moving on—that turn in memorable performances. Michael Rapaport does what he does best, play a sweet, lovable goof, as Mullins’ loser brother. And the rest of her brawling Boston clan—which includes Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block, and Jane Curtin of “SNL” fame—is a profane, R-rated riot. Tony Hale (“Arrested Development”) as a John that Mullins busts early on; Dan Bakkedahl as a misogynist, albino, DEA agent; and Thomas F. Wilson as Mullins’ brow-beaten police captain; are just a few of the more memorable quick hitters that show up on screen. And surprise, surprise, Marlon Wayans turns in a totally straight performance, and is really good. Who saw that coming?
“The Heat” gets a touch long at times, and you can tell that bits were left in for laughs, not because they serve the story. Still, it’s not nearly as noticeable as “Bridesmaids,” and nowhere near as overlong as any Judd Apatow movie you care to point at. And “The Heat” never falls victim to one pitfall that trips up a lot of comedies, wanting to be more than just funny. How many times has a movie started off great, with laughs coming fast and heavy right out of the gate, only to see the pace and force falter when the filmmakers try to interject emotion and other serious elements into their movie? You expect this fate to befall “The Heat” in a number of moments, but to Feig and Dippold’s credit, the movie never gets mired down. Just when you know that things are going to get sappy and the movie is about to lose all momentum, McCarthy unleashes a volley of crudeness and expletives that would make George Carlin’s corpse blush, and the pace picks right back up again.
And the kicker is, you actually do care about the two main characters, but even though there is no heavy handed direction to do so. Despite all of their faults and foibles, these are pretty likable people, which is a welcome change from the recent trend where it seems like everyone in a comedy has to be a dick and total piece of crap that you can’t stand. So do yourself a favor, go see “The Heat” and laugh your ass off. It won’t change the world, but you will bust a gut watching it.