What if we gave Melissa McCarthy an entire film to play a potty mouthed, hard ass? That's got to have been the question on the lips of Bridesmaids and now The Heat director Paul Feig when he whipped together this 'odd couple' 70s buddy cop film with extra lady parts. Sandra Bullock's arrogant and aloof FBI Agent Ashburn doesn't play well with others. When a promotion is on the table her boss sends her to Boston with express instructions to play nice with the local law enforcement. Unfortunately the local officer on the case is Detective Mullins (McCarthy), the most inappropriate, abusive, inappropriate (yes I intended for that additional inappropriate) cop in town. Both abrasive loners must work together to take down an evil drug...blah blah blah - er go bad guys.
When McCarthy's on, she's absolutely one of the most infectious physical and improvisational comedic performers around. While Bullock's straight foil encourages the scientific and logical building of the case, from suspect to suspect, xi style; McCarthy is a whirlwind of off the rails policing. From kicking doors in revealing old ladies on the can, to literally throwing phone books at criminals being interrogated and even 'Russian Roulette' with suspects' balls - you get treated to an out of time old school - but from a uniquely feminine and fresh perspective. Bullock is a really underrated comedic harmoniser. She get's the sense of what her partner is doing, reacts and instinctively counter balancing duet partner.
The problems with The Heat are born out of the flimsy predictable narrative (and it's totally unnecessary two hour running time) that forms the sandbox for these characters. Instead of completely satirising the genre it slavishly adheres to the plot devices of the genre. From the moment it begins you know that eventually they're going to work together to take down these crooks; so the purpose (consolation) of watching just how many outrageous situations they can overcome to get to that outcome. You're happily riding along with this ridiculous premise while the film doesn't take itself too seriously. However, The Heat really throws itself under a bus with Bullock having to sincerely tell a task force that McCarthy's psychotic, abusive drunkard is the BEST cop she's ever worked with *snore*. If the story stayed firmly in the ridiculous and nonsensical (thus shaving 30-45 minutes of wasted 'story') this could have been a relentless comedic experience. Even Feig and writer Katie Dippold resort to comedy geek window shopping with the great stand-up talent like Bill Burr and Chris Gethard in minuscule roles in an attempt to improve the frustratingly familiar narrative.
The Heat runs really hot in fiery bursts of filthy and physical female comedy; but trying to even pay lip service to this husk of a story for its two hour running time really makes for a polarising view.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Released in Australia on the 11th of July 2013