A cocky but uptight FBI officer (Sandra Bullock) is paired up with a coarse, unconventional Boston cop (Melissa McCarthy) who need to overcome their differences if they are to take down a ruthless, but mysterious, drug lord.
What we thought:
Reaching back to old fashioned buddy cop films like Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys, The Heat is a very conventional, slightly bland take on the genre that rises above its own meagre ambitions purely on the strength of its lead actresses.
There is unquestionably something welcome about a full-on action comedy that not only stars two women in the traditionally male lead roles but also doesn't treat them any differently because of that, but there's definitely something overly familiar about the film that isn't quite overcome by its refreshing feminist slant. After Hot Fuzz's brilliant deconstruction and reconstruction of the buddy cop film and The Other Guys' demented, slightly twisted take on the same, The Heat's adherence to formula is not only disappointing, but is frankly tiresome as well.
The plot is so by-the-numbers that it doesn't only quickly fade from memory the minute the credits roll but actually falls entirely by the way side in the middle of the film. The fact that the film's final revelation about its big bad is so underwhelming as to barely elicit a "him?" (or a "her?" - I'm not telling) from the audience just about says everything you need to know about how unbelievably dull the story itself is.
Fortunately, the film does go some way towards overcoming its shoddy storytelling by the simple - and rather essential – fact that it is still very, very funny. The baggy two-hour running time and all the crappy plot stuff that the film has to pay lip-service to does threaten to overwhelm things and the film would have been improved immeasurably by a bit more time honing the plot and/ or editing the film's excess fat, but as a sharp character-comedy, it more than hits its mark.
The secret to the film's comedic success can basically be divided three ways. Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock don't exactly stretch themselves, as the latter essentially reprises her Miss Congeniality roll, while the former once again plays another riff on her Bridesmaids character, but there's no doubting their comedic chops or the fact that they work so well off one another.
After this, it's probably about time for McCarthy to do something else, as she is far more versatile than her recent film roles suggest, but her "coarse chick with a heart of gold" schtick hasn't quite overstayed its welcome just yet as she is genuinely very funny throughout the film. Her pissy, bullying relationship with her boss (Back to the Future and Freaks and Geeks' Tom Wilson) proves to be a particularly effective wellspring of laughs.
Sandra Bullock, on the other hand, is far more subtle, but no less funny in a role that could easily have just been a "straight man" role in the hands of a less talented actress, but is turned into something slyly funny in the hands of Ms. Bullock. It's easy to forget how good Bullock can be when given the right material as she has starred in more than enough stinkers to sink most careers but her mix of easy charm and underplayed comedic skills are on full display here and reminds us of just how much better an actress and a comedian she is than most of her films suggest.
Ultimately though, while McCarthy and Bullock carry so much of the film, the final piece of the puzzle should not be overlooked as it is the very thing that holds everything together. Director Paul Feig may be best known for Bridesmaids, but he has spent much of his career in TV, creating the under-seen coming-of-age masterpiece, Freaks and Geeks, and directing a number of episodes for some of the best ever American TV comedy (The Office, Arrested Development, 30 Rock) and he brings the full weight of his experience to The Heat. If Grown Ups 2 is proof positive that bad comedy directing can ruin even perfectly OK jokes then The Heat shows just how vital good comedy direction is in making sure that the gags actually hit their mark, as they do time and time again throughout the film.
It's far from the home run that many see it as being and it's kind of sad that with a bit of editing and tweaking it could really have been something special but The Heat is still one of the year's funniest comedies and that, at least, is nothing to laugh at.