If Hot Fuzz is the gold standard for recent buddy-cop movies and The Other Guys is the silver, then The Heat is the bronze. It's funny, often outrageously so, but it too often goes for the easy jokes instead of trying give us at least something we haven't seen before.
Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are pretty terrific as the titular duo, the former an uptight FBI agent, the latter a play-by-her-own rules Boston cop. Their initial friction eventually gives way to respect and sisterhood, but stop me if I get to something original in this plot summary.
The first 20 minutes of the film are pretty rough because, like most sitcoms"”where writer Katie Dippold has her background"”the characters are only defined by their traits, which makes them hard to love. McCarthy is obnoxious and unpleasant for most of this time, and Bullock is as dull as dishwater. As the film progresses, I became more endeared to them, and their friendship seemed real, even if the reasoning behind their personalities and self-imposed isolation from the world seems a little out of the film's reach.
So yes, the leads are great as expected, but what about the rest of the cast? Unless you've got a photographic memory, it's doubtful you could name any of the other cast members, because they're all given so little to do. They could have switched roles and I wouldn'T have noticed. The only one who makes any sort of impression is Dan Bakkedahl as an albino DEA agent. But that's mainly just to laugh at his disorder, which makes me kind of uncomfortable. At least his character's a misogynist so we have a legitimate reason to hate him.
That's another issue that plagues The Heat. At what point are we laughing with Melissa McCarthy and what point are we laughing at her? There's a scene where she has to squeeze through the window of her hooptie because she parked too close to a patrol car. Is this scene funny because she's a master of physical comedy, or is it funny because we have been trained to think overweight people in tight spaces is inherently funny. It's an uncomfortable feeling I never got while watching her in Bridesmaids.
The director of that film returns and just as before, he needs a new editor. That's not to say the scenes are poorly constructed"”though an explosion at a warehouse is cut in such a way that emphasizes its bad special effects"”but as with Bridesmaids, it's at least 20 minutes too long. He also wastes a Saturday Night Live vet (Jane Curtin) by just having her play the mom. She gets a chuckle-worthy moment, but nothing to show off her comedic skills.
Still, The Heat earns major points for being the only mainstream Hollywood film this summer to have female leads. And it passes what some consider the only test for a comedy"”is it funny? But everyone, aside from the two leads, could have tried a little harder to actually give this film some extra firepower.