In 2011, Paul Feig‘s Bridesmaids became a break out hit. Feig had mostly been known as a TV director up until that point (so we won’t remind you about Unaccompanied Minors). That’s not meant as a put down in any way, the man worked on some great shows like The Office and Arrested Development, but Bridesmaids was bigger than anything he’d done before. It was a rare animal indeed, an R-rated comedy with a predominantly female cast. But it worked and now Feig is back with his take on the buddy cop comedy starring two women in the lead roles instead of men.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. There’s this cop right? And he’s hot-headed and crude, hates authority and refuses to play by the rules. And then he ends up getting partnered with this totally straight-laced dude, a real square, I mean the guy may as well wear a pocket protector. So, of course, they hate each other. Despite their polar opposite approaches they’re both great cops. But trying to work together, they’re at each others throats to the point that their bosses are fed up. This work complication happens around the same time that the two dudes realize they have more in common than they think…in fact, they may actually like each other. Kicked off the case and on the outs, their only option is to put their differences aside and solve the case together. This is the plot of pretty much every buddy cop comedy. Sure there are changes sometimes, but the formula is basically the same. The Heat clings to this formula like a baby’s first blanket. But instead of two dudes, we get Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.
The results are decidedly funny.
The lion’s share of credit for the film working as well as it does rests squarely on the shoulders of Bullock and McCarthy. McCarthy is instantly believable as the gruff, crass Detective Mullins. Her incredibly filthy vernacular just spills off her tongue as she rolls through profanity laced vulgarities like the best of the Brits. And Bullock is perfect as the straight woman, replete with pant suits and Spanks underwear. She’s played this role before, and we’re used to seeing her like this. What we aren’t used to is the Bullock who lets loose in the third act and that’s where she really shines, putting in a solid comedic performance and looking good doing it. McCarthy’s character doesn’t really change all that much, as the gruff one usually doesn’t in these types of films, but that simply allows her to be vulgar and funny throughout the film. The pair also have pretty good screen chemistry and are able to play off each other nicely.
The supporting cast isn’t exactly made up of slouches either. Back to the Future fans will recognize Biff (Tom Wilson) as McCarthy’s Boston PD captain. Marlon Wayans plays a normal dude as Bullock’s liason in the local FBI office. It’s a different role for him, but he unexpectedly pulls it off with charm. And TV fans will love seeing Buster (Tony Hale) from Arrested Development, Tom Jeter (Nathan Corddry) from Studio 60 and Gabe (Zach Woods) from The Office in smaller roles. They each get their moments but Corddry, in particular, has a fantastic scene where his character is asking Bullock if she’s a narc. His accent gets in the way; hilarity ensues.
The biggest issue, and it’s relatively minor, particularly in the face of laugh after laugh, is that the third act that we all know is coming seems to take forever to get here. Despite some great bonding scenes in the second act, Bullock stays in the straight-laced role for far too much of the runtime. When she finally, fully cuts loose near the end, the results are great and very funny. It just needed to happen sooner and have some time to breathe.
The Heat is a well-balanced, well-made and very funny film. There are several especially hysterical sequences, most notably the drunken night that McCarthy and Bullock spend together, their first visit to McCarthy’s family home and most of the all-too-brief third act where they go in guns blazing. That is by far its biggest asset, the near constant onslaught of laughs. While it may be just a little bit too long and overly formulaic, the vast majority of the jokes hit their targets making for a very entertaining film. Make no mistake, this is your standard buddy cop movie through and through. But it’s a damn good one.
The Upside: Consistently funny throughout; stellar cast
The Downside: Weird third act transition; just a little too long
On the Side: The film was written by Katie Dippold who wrote 54 episodes of MADtv.