The Heat takes the tired 80s buddy-cop movie mold and breathes new life into it. And no, it’s not because the cops in this case are women, although it would have been easy for screenwriter Katie Dippold, director Paul Feig and stars Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock to simply milk that twist and call it a day.
After all, there have been many attempts in the past to cash in on generally male genres like crass sex comedies and simply replace the characters with women without any personal touch or ingenuity. That dreadful Cameron Diaz vehicle The Sweetest Thing comes to mind. "Look ma! Women can be just as crass as men! Ain’t that neat?"
Feig, who proves once again after Bridesmaids that he can handle female-centric comedies better than anyone in Hollywood right now, knows that it’s the humor and the chemistry between the two leads that drives such a comedy forward. Lucky for him that McCarthy and Bullock have enough comedic timing and chemistry to fill an entire franchise. This is the funniest movie of the year so far. Yes, even funnier than This is The End, and that’s quite an accomplishment.
The story begins like an unofficial, better written sequel to Miss Congeniality, as Sandra Bullock portrays yet another masculine, control freak FBI agent. In order to nab that important promotion, she has to solve a drug trafficking case in Boston. While there, she is forced to collaborate with the feisty and obnoxious officer Mullins (McCarthy).
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when I tell you that McCarthy is the biggest reason to cough up your hard earned cash to see The Heat. Her ability to bring depth and sympathy to characters that could easily turn into two-dimensional cardboard caricatures is amazing. I don’t think I’m blowing her talent out of proportion when I repeatedly compare her to Bill Murray and John Candy at their peak.
What’s surprising here is that Bullock can almost keep up with McCarthy in sheer boundless energy instead of simply relegating herself to the Straight Man (Or Woman) of the comedy equation. Her timing in delivering some of the jokes is excellent.
The screenplay doesn’t simply follow the "Uptight police officer and the loose cannon cop hate each other at first but learn to like each other along the way" formula. The structure is predictable, but the characterizations don’t go over the edge and they manage to meet somewhere closer in the middle.
Of course the drug trafficking case itself is there as an excuse for these two characters to form a bond and to string a bunch of jokes together. Feig knows enough about the genre to provide the jokes first, and then bring on the exposition. We even forgive some of the seemingly unnecessary scenes, such as a sequence that shows a Heimlich maneuver that goes disastrously wrong, because they are infused with McCarthy and Bullock’s brilliance.
The Heat is not a movie you go to in order to see a well-rounded police procedural. The mystery surrounding the case is very old-fashioned and foreseeable but it’s adequate for the genre. You go to see it because it’s really, really funny from beginning to end. And that’s enough.