One of the most successful film genres of the last thirty years has been the buddy action comedy. Among the familiar titles are “48 Hours,” “Running Scared,” “Men in Black,” “Bad Boys,” “Tango & Cash,” “Starsky & Hutch,” “Rush Hour,” and “21 Jump Street.” The common thread in all of the aforementioned movies is that the lead principals are guys.
Director Paul Feig and screenwriter Katie Dippold clearly revere the action comedy and decide to give it a long overdue twist by having a cop buddy flick where the two leads are women.
Sandra Bullock played an FBI agent in “Miss Congeniality” and gets to “rejoin the agency” in “The Heat.” The difference, to use “The Odd Couple” as an analogy, is that Bullock played an Oscar Madison-like character in “Miss Congeniality,” whereas she is clearly Felix Unger in “The Heat.” Her Sarah Ashburn character is a Yale alum who can solve the most intricate crimes in a manner that would make Sherlock Holmes envious. Unfortunately, her compulsion to always show up her colleagues at the Bureau leave her friendless.
Melissa McCarthy, who played a bull in the china shop character in 2011's “Bridesmaids,” is at it again as she plays a Boston police officer, Shannon Mullins. Mullins is loud and crude and loves to humiliate the higher-ups at her precinct almost as much as she does the perpetrators whom she apprehends. McCarthy claimed at a press event promoting this film that she wasn’t thinking of her when she was preparing for this role, but her character is kind of like Rosie O’Donnell on steroids.
When Sarah is assigned by the FBI to investigate who is running an illegal drug importing business in Boston Harbor, she finds herself paired up with Mullins. The stuffy Yalie being forced to be in tandem with the foul-mouthed pride of South Boston is one of the better oil-and-water pairings you will find.
Feig and Dippold wisely mine the socioeconomic and education gap between the two as well as you can ask. The scene where Sarah meets Shannon’s family is quite humorous as one of her brothers asks Sarah “Are you a narc?” Sarah can’t make out the word from his strong Bostonian accent and thinks that he is saying the word “knock.”
While Bullock and McCarthy are seasoned pros who carry this movie with ease, Paul Feig wisely supplements their talents with a terrific supporting cast that includes the likes of Marlon Wayans, Nate Coddry, Michael Rappaport, “Saturday Night Live” cast member Taran Killam, and New Kids on the Block’s Joey McIntyre.
“The Heat” does have its drawbacks. Some of the scenes, such as the one where Sarah and Shannon bond by getting drunk in a dive bar, go on a bit too long. The plot frequently seems to be a bit of an afterthought. For example, it’s hard to understand how the various bad guys know each other. It also seems a bit far-fetched that none of the villains seems to know the identity of the drug kingpin mastermind.
Nonetheless if you crave big laughs (albeit you may feel guilty at times for chuckling out loud in a movie theater), “The Heat” delivers plenty of them.