Directed by Paul Feig (who is mostly known for the surprisingly successful “Bridesmaids”), “The Heat” has taken me by complete surprise and brought a serious onslaught of hilarity into the summer blockbuster line-up. Admittedly, my expectations towards this particular comedy were kept relatively low, especially after the utterly underwhelming “The Internship”, which succeeded in destroying my comedy palate. Thankfully, “The Heat” strikes all the right notes and, while not entirely original, brings all the ingredients together to create a very refreshing summertime dish that’s light on the stomach, but zingy on the senses.
(I should probably grab a sandwich or something, because I can’t stop thinking in cooking analogies)
In terms of the story, “The Heat” is a feminine variation on the buddy cop comedy where a young and arrogant FBI agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is paired up with an obnoxious police officer Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), as they turn Boston upside down trying to find the identity of a mysterious new drug kingpin Larkin. In the process, however, they both have to come to terms with their own shortcomings and learn to co-exist. Moreover, their unlikely partnership quickly develops a peculiar dynamic that not only drives the whole film forward, but also serves as a vital plot device that pretty much carries the entire story.
I find it ironic that shortly after I had to sit through “The Internship” and nearly choked on the awkward and nearly forced performance by Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, I was quickly reminded of how that kind of comedy can be done right. Sure, the idea of pairing exact opposites together is nothing new in here, but when it’s done with confidence and flair, with only a speck of originality, the end result has the potential to fly.
While I normally wouldn’t associate Sandra Bullock with an all-out comedy and frankly I didn’t expect she had it in her, she did a wonderful job in creating a funny character (although very conveniently layered, so as to keep the pacing going) that knew her place in the picture. Granted, I think everybody would expect Melissa McCarthy to take the lead in any comedy she’s in, because she clearly is gifted that way. I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that most of her best gags were at least partially improvised. She does know she’s the star here and all eyes are on her at all times. What I think makes “The Heat” work so well, is the combination of McCarthy’s filthy humor and lack of any moral brakes with Bullock’s perfectly professional supportive role where she would let McCarthy do her thing all the while providing the fillers and backup vocals here and there to make the film work as a whole.
“The Heat” does not reinvent the genre in any capacity, but stands firmly on its own within it. It’s not just a two-man show with little around it, but rather a very balanced work including a set of very memorable secondary characters (hilarious in their own right) that makes a banal buddy cop story funny once more.