It must be tough for Paul Feig. Everything he does is met with the high expectations of somebody who directed Bridesmaids, created Freaks and Geeks, and played Mr Pool in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The Heat certainly starts off promisingly as an old-fashioned crime comedy with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy unleashed and spewing one-liners. Unfortunately, as it progresses, the schtick gets tired faster than you can say the title.
If the posters don’t give it away, The Heat focuses on a mismatched pair of police officers: McCarthy is aggressive and foul-mouthed, Bullock is straight as an arrow. Can they put aside their differences to foil the city’s drug operation? I’ll let you guess.
To a certain extent, the film embraces these cliches, and I’m fine with that. At times there’s warmth that comes from playing up the genre’s tropes (“Me and her? We’re the f**king heat”) and the lead actresses are superb in playing those extremes. McCarthy is allowed to be funny pretty much all the time, with every plot twist and obstacle often a set-up for her to deliver a punchline.
Bullock’s non-character is the problem. As the “good cop” of the equation, she’s increasingly lifeless and reduced to the stereotype of a single woman whose best friend is the neighbour’s cat. Further into the film, when tight situations force the leads into bonding exercises and an unlikely friendship, it’s apparent just how little there is to their DNA. When Feig launched Freaks and Geeks, he wrote an extensive guide to the kids’ personalities, even down to their favourite albums and foods. Interviews reveal the years of rewriting that went into Bridesmaids. In The Heat, they just about have surnames.
Luckily, as I said, the performances are committed and worth a few laughs. Yet those laughs are outnumbered by jokes that fail so spectacularly, it’s puzzling why the 117-minute running time wasn’t trimmed. Some sample dialogue: “Is that the same sandwich you offered me a week ago?” “Yeah. Cheese doesn’t go bad.”
The Heat doesn’t run through every sign of a bad comedy – there’s no rapping grandmother or, to my surprise, anyone taking drugs for the first time. There is, however, two – yes, two – scenes based on the humour of awkward dancing. It begins with humour, and speeds off downhill with a profane siren. The Heat 2 has already announced; I hope the sequel won’t be a repeat offender.
out of 10
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