Bridesmaids director Paul Feig delivers more cracking comedy from strong female leads
The mismatched buddy-cop genre gets a refreshing feminist spin from the director of Bridesmaids, in this action comedy that scores highly on the comedy front, but falls short on action. Sandra Bullock is Ashburn, an overachieving New York FBI agent whose intense unpopularity with her colleagues is holding her back from promotion. To test her ability to work in a team, her boss (Demian Bichir) dispatches Ashburn to Boston on a drugs case that will involve her working with local police. Ashburn ends up partnered with Mullins (Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy), a loud, vulgar and gratingly tactless cop whose every action rubs against Ashburn’s principled, best-practice approach. Wouldn’t it just be something if this chalk and cheese partnership ended up busting the case wide open?
Unlike Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz, The Heat is not a knowing spoof of the action-cop genre as much as it is a sincere appropriation of that genre by the Apatow-inspired school of character-based comedy. It’s not an entirely successful mix, as writer Katie Dippold’s (TV's Parks and Recreation) script allows plenty of space for tangential comedy at the expense of the tight plotting that the genre ultimately requires. This would be a bigger problem if the comedy were not so funny: a recurring appearance from an irate albino Agent, hilarious scenes featuring Mullins’ extended family (curiously similar to Mark Wahlberg’s near-feral Boston relatives in The Fighter) and a painfully funny emergency tracheotomy scene are a few of The Heat’s many standout gags. The hit-rate ensures this is Bullock’s funniest comedy in years, and a return to form for McCarthy after lame duck Identity Thief.
This is also a rare case of a film with two female lead roles that could be played by men with minimal rewriting. Following Bridesmaids it marks another successful barge into Hollywood’s boys-only territory from director Paul Feig, who is proving to be the most significant director of women in Hollywood right now.