Lethal Weapon with Grrrrl Power.
The Heat cashes the raunchy, feminist comedy check that Bridesmaids wrote two years ago. Instead of throwing a few poop jokes out as misdirection for a conventional woman-saved-by-a-man story like Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock bond over profanity and punching dudes to form a friendship. Men are around, usually messing up things for the ladies to fix, they are just window-dressing here. Which is totally fine. The movie is a throwback/homage to the Eighties buddy cop movies (Lethal Weapon, 48 HRS, Running Scared). Like those films, The Heat pulls off just the right blend of shoot-em-up action with comedy. Director Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks) also directed the aforementioned Bridesmaids, so what’s different this time? My theory – Mr. Judd Apatow’s meaty paws are not all over this one. Your humble reviewer has more than a few issues with Mr. Apatow’s reductive brand of hate/ridicule comedy. His absence is a positive here.
Sara Ashburn (Bullock) is an uptight FBI special agent whose odd, Asperger’s behavior has alienated her from, well, most of society. She has no friends and is not liked by her colleagues, so she jumps at the chance to head up a detail in Boston to track down a drug smuggler. In Beantown she gets introduced to Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) a reckless, f-bomb drooping Boston cop who loves to threaten criminals. Mullins’ s aggressive, in-your-face style is 180 degrees away from the boring, by-the-book style of Ashburn. The two are polar opposites, the proverbial odd-couple, which as we all know when paired together they will should produce hilarity. Which they do in their many awkward scenes together. Ashburn, the workaholic nerd, and Mullins, the crass workaholic, eventually bond after their separate battles against the clueless men, cops and robbers, throws them together. The plot isn’t necessary to recap as it’s pretty standard, this movie is about the ladies and the ladies kicking ass.
As the body count starts to pile up, the Mullins family gets drawn into the fun. Mullins’s family is a gathering of Bahstan-stereotypes with Mom (Jane Curtain in a painfully small role) being the only fun standout. Mullins’s brother Jason (Michael Rapaport) gets targeted and eventually shot and thrown into a coma. This only serves to ramp up the violence which almost always is at the expense of men in the movie. Grrrrl power. As Ahsburn and Mullins work their way through the case, they of course become friends. They bond over the length of the film despite Ashburn’s painfully awkward weirdness. The movie focuses heavily on this relationship as the selling point for the film and it works as Bullock and McCarthy conjure up a good rapport.
For Bullock, doing an R-rated comedy is a good call right now in her career as it was teetering close to TomHanksification – going after Oscar-porn bait films like her massive hit The Blind Side. She’s done cops before (Zach Galifianakis favorite Miss Congeniality 2) and she’s done comedy before, in The Heat she shows she still has decent comedy chops. McCarthy is flat-out hilarious in most of her one-liners, nicknames and put-downs. Unlike the woefully Identity Thief, the script by Katie Dippold (Parks and Recreation writer) delivers plenty of action, gags and yes an extended getting drunk and dancing with strangers scene. America loves to see their movie-stars dance in movies. Vince Vaughn’s motormouth would get a serious challenge from McCarthy who honed her craft for many years in sitcom land (Mike & Molly).
In the end, what do we have? We have a standard buddy cop premise with women instead of men as the cops. We’ve got plenty of action and violence without it being gratuitous and over-the-top like most current Hollywood action fare. There’s good chemistry between the two leading ladies, a sequel is already in the works. Basically, The Heat is a good throwback to Eighties action-comedies that were made by adults and for adults. Another great recent example of this is The Other Guys with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Maybe if The Heat 2 is a huge hit they can pair up both sets of cops for a combined movie. Hollywood, you’re welcome for the idea, now just don’t mess it up.
As my mother would call it, The Heat is “good, mindless entertainment.” Spot on Mom.