It’s not often that I’m honestly surprised by the quality of a film, but I’m going to start this review off on a positive note and say The Heat was a pleasantly riotous surprise in the form of a raunchier version of a Rizzoli & Isles type show. I’m not sure why I doubted director Paul Feig after scoring with his female version of The Hangover, Bridesmaids, but none of the trailers for this hard-R buddy-cop picture tickled my fancy in the slightest – even the profanity laced Red Band trailer. But none of that matters now, because I still have yet to locate my ass in the theater since I subsequently laughed it completely off.
If you’ve seen any “rough and tumble local police officer is forced to pair up with a straight-edge Federal Agent” comedy, then you’ll know exactly how this story goes. Sandra Bullock (Special Agent Sarah Ashburn) plays a pretentious by-the-books agent who travels to Boston for a possible career making case, but she’s forced to work with Melissa McCarthy’s hard-nosed local character (Det. Shannon Mullins) who is the complete opposite of Bullock in every way. They start out hating each other, butt heads constantly, but begin to find out they are the ying to the other’s yang, and start cooperating with an increasingly high-profile case on their hands. The police work is iffy, professionalism non-existent, but as long as you’re not more interested in the case than our characters, laughs are absolutely plentiful.
What comes as no surprise is Melissa McCarthy’s absolute domination of each and every joke writer Katie Dippold crafted for the fearless comedian, channeling every bit of the vulgar, inner badass that she never got to expose on shows like Gilmore Girls. Don’t get me wrong, she plays nice with America’s sweetheart, Sandra Bullock, but McCarthy absolutely put The Heat on her strong, comedic back, and carries us through every scene. I almost felt bad for Sandra because compared to the hilarity Melissa achieved, it’s almost as if Bullock seemed like the weaker of the pair out of nothing but simple comparison. Man, I love me some Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey, but I fully believe that no female comedian on the planet can keep up with Melissa McCarthy when she’s firing on all cylinders, as she charges through The Heat guns blazing and tempers flaring.
Sandra on the other hand I didn’t really become that attached to unfortunately, and don’t seriously cite the above overshadowing reason as why. It’s true, it felt like Bullock was stuck in McCarthy’s shadow, doing nothing but following her lead and trying to land equally powerful punchlines, but that’s because there was nothing very stand-out-ish about her performance. Her character was nothing but Sandra being a goody-goody, and we’ve seen that before – many times. Unless she was yelling at her canine co-workers, or if you only consider the new version of Ashburn that appears at the end of the film, I found myself fixated on McCarthy whenever possible, much like her awesome husband that always pops into her films for an epic cameo. Sadly, a nerdy, whiny, pretentious Bullock was worth infinitely less when commanding the screen herself.
A comedy can live or die by its supporting cast, but thanks to appearances by Spoken Reasons, Bill Burr, Nathan Corddry, Dan Bakkedahl, Thomas F. Wilson, and Marlon Wayans, both McCarthy and Bullock have enjoyable counterparts to bounce chemistry off of. The scene where McCarthy’s character berates Wilson, who is playing her captain, still remains one of my favorite McCarthy moments even though every trailer played the crap out of it, but Wilson’s beaten-down reactions work so well with McCarthy’s badass persona. YouTuber Spoken Reasons was also a nice surprise as McCarthy’s favorite criminal, Rojas, proving that not all of these YouTube sensations are annoying, gimmick exploiting attention seekers. McCarthy and Bullock may be The Heat’s heavy hitters, but there’s plenty of smaller players who offer a comedy curveball every now and then.
Considering female-led comedies though, the comparison situation Bridesmaids drew to The Hangover absolutely pertains to The Heat, which certainly gave me more of a laugh-induced belly-ache than The Other Guys did on its opening night. Whether The Heat will hold longevity still stands to be discovered, as after its HBO run, I warmed up mightily to The Other Guys, but for what Wahlberg and Ferrell did for R-Rated buddy-cop comedies, McCarthy and Bullock answered with their own brand of estrogen filled, over-the-top comedy stylings – right down to their very own drunken bar montage.
It’s hard to care that The Heat is nothing but a bunch of over-masculine cop stereotypes form-fitted for the female body, because the lack of oxygen you’ll get from laughing so hard at some scenes will absolutely cause you to stop thinking properly. Honestly, Katie Dippold should be simultaneously patting herself on the back and thanking the splendid cast of characters who translated her jokes to screen, as The Heat proves that when comedy is concerned, people are much more forgiving of weak storyboarding as long as they’re entertained by jokes funny enough to distract. Mission accomplished, I’d say.
As it exists, The Heat is the perfect follow-up for the Paul Feig/Melissa McCarthy connection, and (potentially) a perfect franchise for Sandra Bullock to get involved in. While Sandy didn’t exactly “WOW” me this time around (until about two-thirds of the way in), I would absolutely love to see her character Ashburn appear in a sequel now that she’s been schooled by McCarthy’s Det. Mullins, especially if Rojas was back and causing trouble. That’s how much fun I had with The Heat - I actually wouldn’t mind a sequel. Expect unmitigated amounts of gun slinging, perpetrator beating, albino bashing, curse slinging, insult throwing, uproariously good fun – perfect for the summer blockbuster season.