A buddy cop comedy that actually focuses on character development over an elaborate, action-packed plot is rare. The creative team of The Heat know exactly what they’re going for and deliver it with great style.
Special Agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) of the FBI is sent to Boston to go after an unidentified drug lord known as Larkin. While interrogating a low-level drug dealer, Ashburn is brought face to face with the toughest cop in the Boston: Officer Mullins (Melissa McCarthy). Mullins refuses to let anyone get in the way of protecting her family and neighborhood and forces herself onto Ashburn’s investigation by any means necessary.
The success of The Heat comes down to three key factors: the direction, the acting, and the writing. Director Paul Feig once again takes the helm of a Melissa McCarthy show-stopping comedy after their previous collaboration on Bridesmaids. Feig pushes Bullock and McCarthy into a very natural relationship arc that never feels forced or manipulated. The whole film, with all the insanity of the physical comedy and aggressive wordplay, feels organic and highly focused. The audience never loses sight of the story even as it sprawls off into long tangential comedy scenes showcasing the ensemble cast.
Melissa McCarthy steals the show as Officer Mullins. The role starts in the formula you might expect from McCarthy at this point: loud, brash, and driven by physical comedy and off-kilter line readings. 10 minutes later, you realize that her Mullins has so much more to offer than bad cop cliches and Boston stereotypes. McCarthy crafts a vulnerable and inspiring performance out of what could be just a brash and stupid character. You laugh with Mullins, not at her, and that is rarer than real character development in this genre.
Sandra Bullock also plays against expectations as Special Agent Ashburn. She starts out as the straight woman for McCarthy’s antics, then slowly becomes more unhinged as the film progresses. By the time she’s trying to save a life with a dirty knife and a plastic straw, you realize that Ashburn is now the comedic relief in Mullins’ story. Bullock has a great rapport with McCarthy and the rest of the supporting cast onscreen and it does wonders to liven up what starts out as a very one-note straight-edge character.
Screenwriter Katie Dippold’s previous credits come as a staff writer on Parks and Recreation and MADtv. Her experience on episodic television and live sketch comedy really elevates The Heat to something special. Each big comedy scene feels like a self-contained sketch with a clear beginning and ending. These moments are stacked together into a larger narrative so that the plot is never lost. The scenes do allow for a whole lot of great comedic actors to get moments to shine with well-scripted comedy that advances the plot. Dippold’s voice is very natural and the plot has enough detail tucked away to lead to a perfectly believable conclusion.
The Heat is, simply put, a very good comedy film. The acting, direction, and screenplay are top notch and the laughs really don’t stop coming. The whole film comes together in a stylish package that is not to be missed.
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