Buddy cop movies have always been about leading men, not women. In films like “Lethal Weapon,” “48 Hrs,” and “Bad Boys,” men would be shown kicking bad guy butt, saving the day, and being totally awesome, whereas women would typically carry roles that involved pole dancing, scant dialogue, and a general lack of clothing. Paul Fieg’s (Bridesmaids) latest directorial outing “The Heat,” is anything but a guy-loving ode to all things testosterone. It’s two hours of girl-power that disguises itself as a Seth Rogen style stoner flick with the same crass language, fart jokes, and slapstick humor that made “Bridesmaids” such a hit. “The Heat” reunites Fieg with Melissa McCarthy, and results in another over-the-top comedy that continues to question the assumed delicacy of the female gender.
In “The Heat,” Sandra Bullock plays the uptight, by the books Ashburn, an FBI detective that wants nothing more than to continue climbing the bureau’s corporate ladder. If buddy cop movies have taught us anything about characters like this —(cough) Detective Rosewood in “Beverly Hills Cop”— we should assume that Ashburn isn’t on too many peoples’ top friend groups on Facebook, and guess what, we’re right. The only thing sadder than Ashburn’s social life is her general awkwardness when it comes to reality. After being sent from New York City to Boston on a case that could land her a promotion, Ashburn’s life is given a much-needed jolt when she is partnered with the disheveled Boston P.D. Officer Mullins (Melissa McCarthy).
Even though Ashburn is the central protagonist of the movie, McCarthy’s Mullins character is the heart and soul of the film. Bullock’s reinterpreted “Miss Congeniality” role has its moments, but most of the humor stems from the repercussions of McCarthy’s sailor-esque mouth. Whether it’s completely ripping apart her Lieutenant and his lack of that certain male sex part that comes in pairs, or constantly bantering with her equally unkempt family, McCarthy continues to dominate the screen in the same way that won her an Oscar nomination last year.
As for the story, there isn’t much. Mullins and Ashburn have to find a drug lord, no wait, a double agent, or was it a double agent drug lord? Whatever. The story really doesn’t matter in a movie like “The Heat.” As long as enough ridiculous situations are strung together to satisfy the audience, everyone goes home happy. In that way, “The Heat” succeeds in what it set out to do.
Paul Fieg is changing the way mainstream comedies view women, and he knows it. With 2011’s “Bridesmaids,” the director flipped the traditional bachelor-party-gone- wild story on its head, and created a girl centric movie that had enough low-brow humor to satisfy even the most ardent misogynistic movie goer. “The Heat” plays on similar cinematic concepts, this time reversing the typical male driven buddy cop movie. What’s next for Fieg? A redefined teen sex movie? “American Pie” for chicks? Whatever the director chooses as his next project, hopefully he’ll cast Melissa McCarthy again.
By David Morris