Ah the R-rated comedy. Every few years this genre come back with a new twist on its format. In the 90s it was revamped as a the teen sex romp (American Pie), in the 00s it was weirdly repressed manchildren and stoners (The 40-year old virgin and Pineapple Express) and now we are in the women can be funny zone. 2011’s Bridesmaids, also directed by Paul Feig, ushered in this new iteration of comedy making many (like, a depressing amount) critics to seemingly suddenly realize that women actually had the ability to be humorous. With The Heat Feig brings us an R-rated, female centered comedy, that’s also a action crime film.
The first thing to know about this film, starring Melissa McCarthy as a tough and dirty cop and Sandra Bullock as a straightlaced FBI agent, is that it’s a hard “R.” The “F” word is used so often that I lost count by the end of the third scene (count was up to around 70) not to mention the copious other creative vulgarities that spew forth from McCarthy’s mouth. In standard movie fashion, Bullock’s character is the opposite in every way. McCarthy is a vulgar cop, Bullock a straitlaced FBI agent. McCarthy is hard drinking and streetwise, Bullock is teetotaling and naive. McCarthy has a loud boisterous family, Bullock is a foster kid. Every time one reveals a character trait or character background just assume that the other will shortly reveal the polar opposite and you get the idea of this “unlikely partnership.”
Teaming up to catch a drug dealer, they travel through the underbelly of Boston and keep bumping into some of the hottest comedic actors around: Kaitlin Olson, Taran Killam, Michael McDonald, Bill Burr, Nate Corddry, Tom Wilson, Tony Hale, Dan Bakkedahl, and even Jane Curtin all feature along with Joey McIntyre (yes, that one) and Demián Bichir just…because. Feig and screenwriter Kate Dippold (Parks & Recreation) know their comedy and surround this film with funny people doing funny things. Unfortunately, the script veers far too close to slapstick for it to be taken too seriously. I love slapstick, I think it’s an under appreciated and lost art but in this film, in which everything is played straight, there are many parts where the film just goes jokey and teeters in the edge of failure.
However the energy exuded by the leads more than keeps the film moving. The script does have some other problems; the pacing is all over the place and I found that the film takes a while to really get to the point, largely due to the second problem of too many plots for either a crime film or a comedy. It’s these times when the film feels unfocussed and…well there’s times when the characters-specifically McCarthy- feel like they’re doing a sketch inside a film. There are a few of these moments that just grind the momentum to a halt and the rest of the cast seems tho simply sit there and watch the bit play out. When the film gets going again these riffs are basically forgotten. I’m a big proponent of giving funny people funny things to say and do and just letting them be funny. But when riff chains just unspool and leave the plot by the wayside it gets tiring.
The Heat, despite the somewhat meandering focus (and a credits sequence that feels like a Tarantino fever dream) is a fun film. It never really delivers what I feel like it’s fully capable of (rumors of a sequel have already begun) but it entertains and builds a great world. McCarthy owns the film with her no fear performance while Bullock slips into the new-to-her role of straight man. Their chemistry more than makes up for any issues I had with the script and I would say that as on screen pairings go these two are gold. The only big problem is that this film isn’t entirely sure what it is, it plays with genre tropes of broad comedies, action films, sketch movies, and crime thrillers. This type of genre blending can work but here there’s no real blending, each genre just kind of touches the next like a large puzzle where the dispirate type never really interact with each other. Despite all that it’s still a fun film with great moments and totally worth a watch. B