By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Bridesmaids director Paul Feig tackles a buddy-cop comedy bringing back his Bridesmaids break-out star Melissa McCarthy, but the results are a bit mixed. Actually, this comes as a relief to me as I felt somewhat burned by how bad McCarthy’s Identity Thief turned out. On the other hand, because Bridesmaids is so much fun, I had hoped Feig, the creator of cult TV show Freaks and Geeks, had helmed another winner. While not a complete loser, The Heat does not have enough funny moments in the film, nor does it really bring anything fresh to the buddy-cop comedy genre to qualify it as a comedic success.
Sandra Bullock portrays FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn, a strong willed career woman who often tries way too hard to impress her colleagues and superiors and often works strictly by the FBI manual. She’s such a strict hard nose that she often rubs her fellow agents the wrong way. Melissa McCarthy plays police Detective Shannon Mullins, a Boston cop who has some serious issues of her own. Often berating and emasculating her fellow cops and humiliating her perpetrators, Mullins probably is an even more difficult person with whom to work. When a drug operation case forces the two law enforcement officers to work together, both Ashburn and Mullins learn much about working in a partnership.
Written by Katie Dippold, the film is typical of the genre. Two clashing personalities result in conflict of both the comedic and dramatic varieties, but the two manage find some common ground when they learn how to compromise. I went into to the film fairly certain that the movie wouldn’t make any serious departures from this formula, but hoped that at least the humor would make the predictable journey more enjoyable. It actually does at times. I did find myself laughing off and on. The humor doesn’t consistently please, but is usually a blast when it does. With McCarthy in the cast, I’m sure Feig and Dippold allowed for her improvisation which is often effective as well.
Unfortunately the amount of humor that tanks in the film probably exceeds the amount that doesn’t. It’s not a huge margin, but still frustrates a bit. Some of the gags are repeated and as most people know, humor loses its effect when repeated too much. Nevertheless, McCarthy does do her best with the lackluster writing, and uses her improvisation to elevate the material somewhat. Bullock does descent work in a moderately comedic role, but sometimes comes across as flat. Then again, her character is intended to be played mostly straight and dull. I had hoped she’d put more energy into the character, though. She does have some charmingly humorous scenes when Mullins takes her character out of element causing awkward hijinks to ensue.
The film also features some fun supporting appearances by Michael Rappaport, Jane Curtin, Joey McIntyre, Bill Burr, Michael Tucci, and Nathan Corddry as Shannon’s obnoxious family. Their portrayal comes across as riff on the Ward family in The Fighter and most of their scenes are quite funny. Also in the supporting cast is Oscar nominee Demian Bichir, but this talented actor doesn’t have much to do as Ashburn’s FBI superior officer. In fact, the same could be said about the remaining cast members who don’t have a whole lot to offer dramatically or comically because of their under-written roles.
So while The Heat turned out to be better than I had expected, it was not quite as good as I had hoped. I am relieved that McCarthy’s humor in the film had very little to do with her body. There is some physical comedy, but it’s not so painfully humiliating as the comedy in Identity Thief often is. I’d wait to rent this one. There really is no overwhelming need to see this in the theater or pay exorbitant prices to do so.