Before shooting even began, The Heat was known as “The Untitled Female Buddy Cop Comedy.” That might’ve been a more accurate title. This has been done so many times before and more successfully. Like The Other Guys and more recently with 21 Jump Street. The Heat tries to mine similar territory. The difference here is this stars two women. And why shouldn’t it? Bridesmaids proved that women in comedy could be just as funny (and crass) as the men back in the Spring of 2011. Director Paul Feig is back with that film’s breakout star – Melissa McCarthy. This time she’s been teamed up with America’s Sweetheart, Sandra Bullock. They play Boston Detective Shannon Mullins and FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn respectively. The two team up to take down a ruthless Russian drug lord. The genre surroundings are what you’d find in any R rated police drama (violence, profanity) but then there’s also the comedy of their mismatched situation. It’s frequently mined for lighthearted amusement. The uneasy mix doesn’t always meld well, but there are some genuine laugh out loud moments sprinkled from beginning to end.
The two leads have appealing chemistry. There’s a wild physicality to McCarthy’s performance that pushes her hilarious interpretation of the role to ridiculous heights. Her character’s audacity vibrantly culminates when phoning the wife of a perp who just solicited a prostitute or questioning her superior‘s courage in front of the entire station. Her wild mane of hair alone is worth a few giggles. She basically makes a tired script better. Bullock plays a variation on the tough, by the books FBI agent that she portrayed in Miss Congeniality. She’s much more efficient and uptight here however. She‘s also notably less vulgar than her counterpart. She says “bull feces” for example when she deems something to be nonsense. She’s humorous too, but McCarthy’s part is the one that’s played more for laughs. Absurd and obnoxious throughout the picture, she presents an amusing foil for the straitlaced, unflappable Bullock. I’ll concede their odd couple chemistry is a common device, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
The Heat is utterly predictable, but still funny. This is one of those by the numbers, action comedies that uses the well worn blueprint of the buddy movie to earn chuckles. Of course they’re a mismatched pair. Not surprising, McCarthy is the boisterous, foul mouthed one and Bullock is the polite and systematic one. It would’ve been a little more refreshing if their roles had been switched. Ah but that would be tinkering with a tried and true formula, and apparently this is a formula that works. This got huge laughs from the public. Despite the familiar genre trappings, this manages to entertain in spite of itself. It’s like comfort food. It isn’t particularly nutritious, but it takes care of your hunger pangs in a way that is satisfying.