Sandra Bullock as Sara Ashburn
Melissa McCarthy as Shannon Mullins
Demián Bichir as Hale
Marlon Wayans as Levy
Michael Rapaport as Jason Mullinss
Jane Curtin as Mrs. Mullins
Spoken Reasons as Rojas
Dan Bakkedahl as Craig
Taran Killam as Adam
Michael McDonald as Julian
Thomas F. Wilson as Captain Woods
Directed by Paul Feig
By-the-books FBI agent Sara Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) has been assigned to take down a deadly drug crimelord in Boston where she ends up butting heads with tough street detective Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy). If the two of them want to find the mystery distributor who is supplying Boston drug dealers and killing off the competition, they’ll have to find a way to get along and work together.
There are certain genres that probably should be retired at this point and the buddy cop comedy certainly fits that bill, because it’s becoming painfully obvious nothing new or original can be done with it, even if you replace the two male police officers trying to get along with two women. “The Heat” is essentially the exact same movie we’ve seen countless times before, this one relying entirely on the skills and abilities and star power of its two leading ladies to drive the comedy even though the story is so filled with every single police cliché we’ve seen so many times, one has to wonder, why bother?
Certainly, one might wonder what Sandra Bullock saw in the script to make this her first movie in two years as she once again plays an FBI agent just like she did in the “Miss Congeniality” movies, though not nearly as convincing eight years after that movie’s terrible sequel. As the formula goes, we see Ashburn in the field and we’re to immediately believe she’s the best at what she does before we’re introduced to Melissa McCarthy’s Detective Mullins as she gives a man trying to solicit a hooker (played by “Arrested Development’s” Tony Hale) a hard time before going after a drug-dealing perp.
If you guessed these two very different law enforcement officers would soon meet and clash before having to work out their differences and work together, then you already know just about everything you need to know about a movie that never makes much of an effort to rise above every single other police action-comedy that preceded it.
To her credit, McCarthy really throws herself into every aspect of her character, particularly the physical comedy. That said, Mullins is not a particularly inspired character, basically the same gritty street cop we’ve seen countless times transplanted onto McCarthy’s style of delivery, and her normally hilarious improvisations are replaced trying to get laughs by inserting the F-word as many times into everything she says. Maybe 25% of McCarthy’s profanity-laden insults to Bullock’s prissy and proper Ashburn and others even elicit a snicker. In fact, there seems to be so much improvising one wonders how much of a screenplay there was in place to begin with since it relies so much on the same formula used so many times before, it’s easy to figure out where it’s going from one minute to the next.
As much as the movie is all about Bullock and McCarthy, the odd casting of the supporting cast doesn’t help matters, like having “Mad TV’s” Michael MacDonald trying to play a straight baddie and failing badly. Even some of the stronger actors like Oscar nominee Demián Bichir seem wasted in roles that could literally have been played by anybody. And yes, the irony of including Marlon Wayans in that list of “wasted talent” is not something we take lightly. As great as it is seeing Jane Curtin again, the fact she’s relegated to one of Mullins’ rude and obnoxious family–a tangent that delivers a few laughs but not really enough to make it worthwhile–rather than given more of a spotlight is par for the course with the laziness inherent in every aspect of the movie.
At times, “The Heat” tries to play with the archetypes of its genre, like having an albino DEA agent who looks like the bad guy from other movies, but it never tries too hard to be clever with these ideas before we’re back to a ridiculous scene of the two women trying to fit in at a night club or a drinking montage where Bullock and McCarthy get to let loose, complete with awkward ’90s dance number.
As with everything else, you expect better from the director of “Bridesmaids,” and much of why “The Heat” doesn’t work can be blamed on director Paul Feig, who probably should have reigned McCarthy in or at least made an effort to come up with a better plot rather than just rehashing every other buddy cop comedy and hoping the dynamics between Bullock and McCarthy could save it. It doesn’t and it can’t, and whether or not you’re able to endure such lazy comedy filmmaking will rely entirely on whether you enjoy the two leads enough to forgive that laziness.
The Bottom Line:s
Despite the considerable talents of Bullock and McCarthy, “The Heat” is an uninspired formula comedy that wastes every iota of that talent on a movie genre that should have been retired at least five years ago.