Humour aside, the main component in the success of 2011’s Bridesmaids was the relationship between its central characters. One of the first female led box office hits in years not to focus on romance, it’s the fading friendship between Kristen Wiig’s Annie and Maya Rudolph’s Lillian that drives the narrative so effectively, and it’s a vital part in Paul Feig’s latest film The Heat.
In Bridesmaids Melissa McCarthy’s boisterous, plain speaking Megan was a notable supporting role, gagging large laughs with her burly mannerisms and crass improvisations. The Heat sees her character resurrected in cop form as half of a female crime fighting leading duo. An unparalleled force of aggression, McCarthy’s Mullins is a collage of the best qualities from her previous roles. Whether this works in a leading role or not is debatable.
The plot is painfully simple; a flawed FBI agent is unwillingly paired with a flawed Boston cop to take down a violent criminal, with much cause for hilarious capers along the ride. Bullock is the uptight one with parental issues that clashes instantly with Mullins belligerent mannerisms, and it’s this conflict of character that allows a platform for McCarthy’s signature comedy, which is to say the worst imaginable thing to someone.
Though a rough looking woman hurling abuse at a recoiling Bullock is funny, it feels too far stretched across an already thinly composed screenplay. It’s not enough to have these rants carry the film, which would benefit from a sturdier narrative and beefier supporting cast. Bullock’s comedic timing is rehearsed but effective however, and the inevitable bond that manifests between the two is sugary sweet and pleasant to behold.
With most of the male supporting characters reduced to fleeting love interests or the targets of Mullins’ wrath (one scene has her turning the station upside down, claiming to search of her captain’s missing genitals) the focus remains firmly on the pair working out their own messes which for this scale of film is refreshing.
For a female led crime film, The Heat is predictably far from sugar and spice and all things nice, and even if the story itself lacks depth its protagonists hold the comedic experience and charm to make this a pleasing if lengthy experience.