Movie Review: 'The Heat' -- 2.5 stars
Directed by Paul Feig
Starring Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy
"The Heat" features one of those classic cinematic battles, in which likable actors give their all in an attempt to overcome a plot that leaves a lot to be desired.
If the world just had to have another buddy cop comedy, casting Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as the leads is certainly the ideal way to go. But few movies can be sustained on sheer force of personality.
This one succumbs to the perils of a clichéd narrative, in which an uptight FBI agent Ashburn (Bullock) teams with tough-talking Boston detective Mullins (McCarthy) to investigate a drug ring. The movie hits all the familiar marks, with odd-couple bickering, a halfhearted investigation, a boss (Demian Bichir) who takes the characters off the case, farcical violence and more.
It's crafted in the "48 Hours" tradition by director Paul Feig ("Bridesmaids") and screenwriter Katie Dippold, in which the characters' interplay gets center stage. And the stars are a classically mismatched pair: Bullock's robotic company woman is a near total contrast with McCarthy's hard-nosed cop. McCarthy plays the Henry Higgins to Bullock's Eliza Doolittle, indoctrinating her into the world of Boston's mean streets.
The chemistry is palpable, befitting an Oscar winner (Bullock) and nominee (McCarthy). The performers fight like the best of them, embracing the screwball nature of the relationship while demonstrating just how gifted they are at physical comedy. Bullock carries herself with comical stiffness, enhanced by Ashburn's affinity for blazers, and McCarthy is fearless when it comes to exerting herself.
Simultaneously, there's a sincere quality to their work that gives the movie an undercurrent of sweetness, making this deepening friendship one worth caring about. It's hard to root against "The Heat," given that it's the only major movie starring women that will be released this summer, an alarming problem that Hollywood must remedy quickly.
But the screenplay goes through the motions when it comes to the plot, with a phony villain and a simplistic investigation robbing the movie of suspense and forward momentum. The comic potential of the Boston setting is underutilized, save for a couple scenes involving Mullins' family.
In short, you've seen a lot of this before. These actors deserve better.