If you weren’t familiar with Freaks and Geeks or just don’t watch a lot of TV shows, then the name Paul Feig probably didn’t mean anything to you until 2011. That’s when a little film called Bridesmaids took the film world by storm and made a star of a certain Melissa McCarthy in one fell swoop. In his latest film Feig continues to impress and tickle many a funny bone because, in short, The Heat is white-hot with humor, wit and style. It’s also one of the best times you’ll have in the cinema this year…and what a way to officially kick off Summer.
Where as Bridesmaids was written by women for women (but happened to have some humorous through-lines that men could appreciate
and get more than a chuckle from) and an excuse for two real life best friends to ham it up for 2 hours, Katie Dippold‘s script is a slightly different animal. It’s clear that Dippold is well-versed in all things “buddy cop” and if not then she really did her homework as The Heat is so much fun because it feels like a lost 80’s late night flick.
This isn’t good cop/bad cop, no that would be too easy and frankly boring. This is “straight-laced” meets “loose cannon” that finds Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) the former and Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) the latter. Not only is the odd couple formula template used, it’s a necessity. The two play off each other in such a symbiotic way that their case couldn’t possibly be resolved unless they bump heads and then work together. With echoes of FEDs, Beverly Hills Cop even The Other Guys and the lesser know Hollywood Homicide, Feig’s film is not about about the ending but all about the ride getting there. This is standard “reluctantly join forces, get the bad guy, save the day, yay!” fare but with said villain(s) who lacks significant heft or the thin plot The Heat plays like a series of skits seamed together that work to move the plot along if barely. Yet all the “I do things this way” “yeah well I do things this way” skits run their course but never cease to be unfunnt. Further the getting-to-know-you scenes grow on you and there’s heart to the story that helps break this buddy cop template over a metal table in an interrogation room. Well that and side-splitting hilarity to Bullock/McCarthy’s chemistry.
In the film Bullock comes off as the female counterpart to Simon Pegg’s Nicholas Angel, but Bullock actually shares more in common with Inspector Clouseau; she’s so good at doing her job but she’s more book smarts than streets smarts. She can walk into a room like she owns it but has trouble entering a door that says “pull” because she’s too busy pushing. Like Marlon Wayans (yes Marlon Wayans) notes in response to Bullock’s attempt to slyly exist stage left “that was this close to being cool“. But again it’s important to note Ashburn and Mullins aren’t bumbling cops, they are great at their jobs they just have different ways of going about it. That’s where the real fun of the film lies.
When Melissa McCarthy gets going the ad-lib side of her brain takes over and it’s a thing of beauty. There’s probably a good amount of script that McCarthy elevates with her skills and comedic timing but it’s more likely Feig altogether cut her lose to let her do what she does best. Her hilarious profane drenched runs are so spontaneous it’s like a stream of consciousnesses. She’s never been funnier and she has this Belushi-esqe quality and grace about her – she just inherently knows what’s funny. Really, whether playing officer Shannon Mullins or Megan in Bridesmaids McCarthy is in a class of her own.
On the flip side is Bullock, again the by-the-numbers cop. Ashburn has this vulnerability hiding just beneath her super proud Federal Agent vest and is so great at her job that she’s alienated herself. She has zero friends and is so lonely that her only company is her neighbor’s cat. But it’s written in this laughably pathetic way and Bullock really makes it work. Now Bullock is a funny animal. For every A Time To Kill and Crash there’s a While You Were Sleeping and Miss Congeniality in her resume. So don’t let her Oscar-winning performance in The Blind Side fool you. She’s got funny in her too and The Heat finds her, countless times, being unexpectedly hilarious. It makes you do a double take thinking about her taking home an Academy Award and then see her blaze across the scene flipping everyone off in one of the film’s funniest scenes.
Helping up the ante in the comedic department is a slew of cameos and small supporting bits that starts with Tom Wilson and ends with a New Kid on the Block (dead serious, you’ll know him when you see him). Even a few alums from The Office show up but the icing on top is Mullins’ family which is comprised odd ball but enjoyable misfits – their collective efforts yield one of the most fun dysfunctional New England families since Andy Garcia’s brood in the little seen City Island. It’s scenes like this that make the irreverence of the skits and legitimate humor within so enjoyable, and even more so if you’re a fan of 80’s styled comedies.
Feig likes his movies long and while it may drag and keep the end further from sight it’s not too noticeable because the humor is sharp and the characters are so enjoyable. The adventures of Mullins and Ashburn are so entertaining it could easily be a series but at the very least expect a sequel (which is why, prematurely though it may be, there’s already a page for it on IMDb).
One good thing about a film with such great comedic talents, especially in a freestyle kind of comedy like this, is that there’s going to be more than one good take. So much so that the Feig (well, Fox) is able to use some scenes for the trailers that differ from what’s in the movie. That’s refreshing in this day and age where trailers end up showing way too much or cherry pick the best parts of the film. So far Feig has never ceased to impress, and it’s doubtful he ever will. For a film about an overdone genre a lot of credit go to Feig and Dippold for coming up material that isn’t trite and even more to Bullock/McCarthy for consistently sticking the landing. With unexpected and repeated bursts of hi-octane hilarity The Heat is the comedy to beat in 2013.