Buddy Cop films are a Hollywood comedy tradition, and if done right they can be extremely funny and entertaining. If done poorly you wind up with HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE, and that really isn’t the type you want to end up with. THE HEAT isn’t the best of the Buddy Cop films, however it doesn’t reach the lows of the worst either. This is in the league of THE OTHER GUYS, it is occasionally funny, the leads have chemistry but it doesn’t quite reach the heights it set out to.
An uptight over achieving FBI Agent (Sandra Bullock) and a no BS street tough cop (Melissa McCarthy) must join forces in order to find and bring down a drug lord. The two don’t get along at first, they are complete opposites who work very differently, but through their time together they form a bond and find just what they need to try and solve the crime.
That really doesn’t sound like anything new, and no it isn’t, it’s the same old formula for the Buddy Cop comedy formula. Except in this case, we have two female leads, instead of the usual two male leads. This isn’t new territory for Sandra Bullock, one of her most entertaining roles is in DEMOLITION MAN alongside Sly Stallone. The two leads as a whole actually work well together, they both have chemistry and aim high with their performances.
What is confusing about this film, the women are written very strangely. It is almost as if this is what a man thinks of women in their positions to be like. The film was written by Katie Dippold, this is her first feature but she does have an extensive comedy background writing for MADTV and PARKS AND RECREATION. The script suffers with the odd way it handles the characters, introduces very weak aspects as character development, aims to make laughs with low brow comedy and it tries to be dark when that doesn’t suit the mood at all. It hits the right notes when the two leads can interact with each other without relying on physical comedy for laughs, because as mentioned the chemistry is there.
Sandra Bullock has always been a very successful comedy actress, she generally aims for characters that play to her strengths (when she doesn’t we end up with ALL ABOUT STEVE). Ashburn is a character that has a lot of elements that suit Bullock’s talents, however the uptight aspect doesn’t suit her and she struggles to make that comes across convincingly. When she hits her high notes, it works really well, unfortunately that isn’t often enough. Melissa McCarthy has been working a long time, she really broke out with BRIDESMAIDS (she has reteamed with director Paul Feig for this) and has been working steady ever since on TV and in film. Her earlier work seems to connect far better, as she is getting typecast now and this isn’t beneficial for her talents. She tries to break away from that here, showing some real emotion towards the second half of the film. However it winds up being the same thing we’ve seen before, despite her efforts.
Paul Feig is certainly an interesting director, aiming to go for different types of comedy. His long time television work has led him to his film career, which he has broken out with however at times and especially here it feels like an extended episode of TV. THE HEAT is not an outright failure, the effort was there, especially with the actresses and director, the laughs are not always there and it’s quite uneven. When a film is unsure of what exactly it wants to be, it really misses the boat to connect with an audience. I applaud the effort, and with a sequel now in the works one can only hope they aim higher and learn from their mistakes.