After director Paul Feig's Bridesmaids became a box-office smash in the summer of 2011, it seemed inevitable that there would be a flood of R-rated comedies aimed at the female audience. Sadly, for whatever reason, it was a trend that Hollywood didn't follow, at least not until 2013 when Feig returned with The Heat, an action comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as odd-couple cops that rivals Goodfellas for its use of F-bombs and Lethal Weapon for its appealing chemistry.
When egotistical, ambitious FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) is promised consideration for a big promotion if she can bring down a drug lord setting up shop in Boston, she's forced to team with loud-mouthed local cop Shannon Mullins (McCarthy). The two hate each other at first sight, but as they dig deeper into the mysterious identity of their prey, they forge an abiding respect and friendship.
While Katie Dippold is credited with the screenplay for The Heat, it's hard not to give some share of the praise to Feig and McCarthy for the often vulgar, usually hilarious one-liners the characters shoot off with alarming regularity. This is the kind of comedy so full of funny asides that you're likely to miss more than a few jokes if you see it in a full theater because laughter drowns out some of the snappy follow-ups to the big gags.
Feig is good with this kind of material, and his lead actresses have genuine comedic chemistry. Bullock, playing straitlaced and repressed, has done this before -- especially in the Miss Congeniality series -- but acting opposite someone as gleefully earthy as McCarthy gives Bullock a chance to send-up her girl-next-door persona without sacrificing her likability; the movie would not work nearly as well if these two actors switched parts.
In addition to creating a pair of likable characters, Feig stages chases, explosions, and physical comedy so that they get the biggest laugh without making us think less of the characters. Early on, McCarthy's character gets into a foot chase with a young dealer and you expect the comedy to come from the ridiculousness of watching an overweight person run, but the movie figures out a comedically ingenious way to complicate things so that we are laughing at the situation rather than the character.
In one of the best sequences, Sarah has to get the cell phone of a dealer so that she can plant a bug in it, and they try to obtain the device by flirting with him on the dance floor of a local club. It's a deftly edited sequence that gets laughs out of Bullock's awkwardness and McCarthy's brute force. The Heat is so well executed that you find yourself laughing at things that you know wouldn't be funny in other people's creative hands.
Feig proved he had a talent for mixing comedy and pathos in Bridesmaids as well as on his beloved TV show Freaks and Geeks, and while The Heat certainly has just enough moments to make audience members go "awwwww" like they're looking at cat videos on YouTube, the actors and filmmakers earn these little moments because they never overplay them.
The Heat is so consistently entertaining that you forgive the lapses in the plot. It's little more than an excuse for these award-winning actresses to charm us within the context of explosions, bloody emergency tracheotomies, and a steady stream of four-letter words. It's a crowd pleaser that should get a sequel as long as Bullock and McCarthy actually had as much fun making it as the finished film makes it look.