Published Jun 27, 2013As established in 2011 with the surprise hit Bridesmaids, director Paul Feig and Gilmore Girls actress Melissa McCarthy have a healthy and consistent comic rapport. His relaxed, quietly observational and subtly judgmental vision complements her improvisational, oft-erratic, self-deprecating and cleverly crude sensibilities.
It's something evident and more consistent throughout female buddy cop satire The Heat, wherein McCarthy's propensity for socially contrary behaviour is thrown into an Odd Couple dynamic with Sandra Bullock, who takes on the straight (wo)man role. In playing FBI special agent Sarah Ashburn, Bullock recites rules and flinches at inappropriate language, wearing suits to arrests and interrogations, whereas McCarthy's crass Boston cop, Shannon Mullins, dresses like a bounty hunter and beats the crap out of anyone that doesn't immediately acquiesce to her demands.
Both women, while highly effective in their respective roles, struggle to work with others. Ashburn alienates people by boasting, and having, an overall smug disposition about her propensity for profiling criminals, while Mullins tends to tell everyone to "fuck off." But, if they want to track down a Boston drug lord, they'll have to team up, utilizing Mullins' geographical and cultural knowhow and Ashburn's access to confidential information and underground criminal networks.
While this premise is inherently unimaginative — two loners learning to overcome misanthropy when forced to work together — their chemistry and the unrelenting hilarity that ensues more than make up for any perceived unoriginality or narrative stupidity. Moreover, the consciousness of genre tropes and resulting hyperbolic performance of the formula, wherein women bond over pussy jokes and creative insults, has a playful referential disposition that mocks the basic silliness of the buddy cop genre without making the wink too obvious or grating.
Where most comedies rely on a handful of exchanges and the occasionally inspired set piece, having a great deal of bland exposition and recycled humour in the middle, there are very few dry moments in The Heat. Whenever Mullins isn't creatively insulting an albino or calling the wife of a man seeking out a prostitute because his wife's vagina is too floppy after having their fifth kid, she's casually diminishing the sexuality and identity of her uptight, exceedingly conservative FBI partner.
During moments that should otherwise be dull, such as a discussion about a drug mule trail, presumably ad-libbed commentary comes out about accidentally touching boobs, which works well with the intense comfort Bullock and McCarthy have engaging each other in physical comedy. Whether Bullock is having her clothes cut off to fit in better at a club or McCarthy is implying that she has Christmas ornaments and doll shoes stuffed up her birth canal, they are constantly tearing each other down and playing off each other's energy in an entirely affable and magnetic manner.
By the end of the almost two-hour film, after misguided tracheotomy attempts and fumbled hostage situations keep the laughs flowing, the real disappointment is that this is merely a movie that eventually has to end. But while it lasts, The Heat is a refreshingly irreverent and unashamedly crude addition to a genre that tends to disappoint more than it entertains. (Fox)