She’s currently wowing audiences with her turn in Alfonso Cuarón’s sci-fi Gravity, but Sandra Bullock has by no means left comedy acting behind. In The Heat, from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, the actress proves she’s capable of delivering both first-rate comedic and dramatic performances.
In this Boston-set buddy cop flick, Bullock plays uptight, by-the-book FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, who’s paired with the brash, foul-mouthed detective Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) in a mission to take down a big-time drug kingpin. It’s a basic premise, and one that’s hardly groundbreaking. The initial hostility between the pair, the inevitable drunken bonding and the action-packed finale in which the couple join forces are all there. However, it’s also a film that’s aware of what it is, and isn’t afraid to focus simply on being really, really funny.
Making a film to rival his side-splitting Bridesmaids was always going to be a difficult task for Feig, but The Heat is a worthy follow-up. While it may lack as many memorable scenes as the Kristen Wiig-penned smash hit (no one will forget this gross-out moment in a hurry), Katie Dippold’s script is packed with witticisms, many of which touch on the always-contentious issue of sexism in the workplace. ‘Hard to believe she’s single,’ a male colleague quips sarcastically after Ashburn makes an example of him in an early scene, for instance. There’s also a hefty dose of slapstick comedy – a sequence in which the pair go undercover in a trashy club and utterly humiliate themselves on the dance floor provides some of the film’s biggest guffaws.
Despite the sharp script, the film wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable without the terrific screen presence of Bullock and McCarthy. Sure, Bullock’s had her fair share of dodgy comic roles over the years (Miss Congeniality, anyone?), but she’s a delight to watch as the straight-laced Ashburn, super-skilled but excruciatingly awkward.
It’s hard to star opposite Melissa McCarthy in rip-roaring form without being somewhat overshadowed, however, and that’s definitely the case here. Whether she’s attacking drug dealers with watermelons or searching her boss’s office for his ‘little girl balls’, her wild-haired, curse-spouting Detective Mullins steals almost every scene. Together, they’re the ultimate odd couple, complimenting eachother’s eccentricities perfectly and impossible not to root for. And it’s clear that Bullock and McCarthy relished each second of their on-screen partnership.
A tired storyline with a predictable outcome? Certainly. A film that’ll have you laughing all the way through? Absolutely.
The Heat is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now