The Heat is an interesting if not necessarily good, funny, or action-packed film. In that way, I suppose it’s a lot like Paul Feig’s last directorial effort, Bridesmaids, save for the “action-packed” part, as Bridesmaids didn’t aim to have action. Both films take a predominantly male-focused genre — raunchy comedy in the case of Bridesmaids and buddy cop in The Heat — and changes the leads into females. Is that going to become his thing now? Because he should get really get funnier scripts if they’re going to continue being comedies.
The film’s lead is Sandra Bullock. She plays FBI Agent Sarah Ashburn, the type of career-driven, no-nonsense character Bullock is perfect for. Ashburn solves all cases without flaw, but is cocky and therefore nobody likes working with her. She’s up for a possible promotion, but gets sent to Boston in order to find a drug lord and take him down. Here, she meets a local cop, Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), who is her opposite in every way. They eventually have to team up in order to take down the drug lord. Because why not?
I can see how this looks good on paper. The combination of a mild-mannered, by-the-book, high-ranking FBI Agent having to team up with a loose-cannon rebel of the local police department is what buddy cop movies are built for. Their personalities are completely opposed to one another, and therefore the bonding scenes and the times they fight will be funny. And the fact that they’re both women? Sure. I’m down with that. It all sounds good.
The actual film, however, relies heavily on Bullock standing there and McCarthy ad-libbing her way through scenes. That’s almost it. McCarthy is profane, Bullock isn’t, and they don’t like each other until the arbitrary point in the film when they do, because they have to in order to solve the case. In fact, there really didn’t seem to be much of a script in place at all. The characters go from location to location and do barely anything while making “jokes” before moving on. That’s almost all of what The Heat has to offer.
Supporting characters come and go and there’s one twist at the end in regard to one of the ones that we saw a couple of times earlier, but most of the film is just Bullock and McCarthy talking about whatever topic McCarthy decided on. And the ad-libbing is really obvious at times. You can tell that they’re making it up as they go. Those who liked McCarthy in Bridesmaids will probably think The Heat is hilarious; not being one of those people, the film was at times intolerable.
And while it’s not as long as Bridesmaids — thankfully it doesn’t quite reach the two-hour mark — it’s still at least half an hour longer than it needed to be. The entirety of the film could easily be cut down to 90 — or probably even 80 — minutes. I’d advocate for that version, but then I also wasn’t laughing for more than a half-minute total for The Heat‘s 117 minutes. Other people will appreciate the random tangents because they’ll find them funny, but there were so many misfires and dead-air scenes that I felt embarrassed for the cast and crew.
It basically comes down to this: the idea is a good one, but the execution was lackluster. It’s the same type of problem I had when watching Bridesmaids (except this one doesn’t run for 130+ minutes). Great concept, but a script severely lacking in laughs. There are maybe three good scenes in this whole movie, but since the rest are either bad or mediocre, the good parts get overwhelmed by the rest of the production.
Even the buddy cop structure barely comes into play. In most of the scenes after the two characters meet, they act just fine with each other. There are few jabs, no fights, nothing. And that’s before they “bond.” I couldn’t tell you the point in the film when they’ve “bonded.” Maybe it’s at the bar, but I don’t really recall them acting any different afterward. It just seems so arbitrary, like the filmmakers know what a buddy cop movie is like so they decided to ignore its conventions but instead of replacing them or subverting them, they were just skipped, assuming that we’d keep up.
To be fair to the cast, and in particular McCarthy, who works her tail off trying to keep the film afloat, it’s not their fault. McCarthy might not be my cup of tea, but you can see and appreciate the effort she puts in even if you’re not personally laughing. Bullock is the “straight man” for most of the film, but the one or two times she gets to play against type are some of the woefully few highlights. Nobody in the supporting cast makes an impact. It’s a film for these two, and they try.
The Heat didn’t make me laugh. It doesn’t have much action, and what it does have is nothing special. It ignores most plot conventions in favor of ad-libbing dialogue between its two stars. Its plot is basically thrown out the window as soon as Melissa McCarthy’s character is introduced. Is it worth seeing? Not for my money, but if you liked Bridesmaids, you’ll likely find this funny, too. The stars work hard to make a smart concept watchable, and I commend them for that. I just wish they were in a better, funnier movie.