Only recently has Hollywood come around to the theory that women potentially make up something like half of the population. Prior to that, blissful and willful ignorance pervaded, and as such the buddy cop films involving the fellas into theaters included, but were not limited to:
"Beverly Hills Cop"
"Se7en" (I said buddy, not comedy)
"Starsky and Hutch"
"Tango & Cash"
"Turner & Hootch"
"The Other Guys"
"Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot"
And buddy cop films featuring female cops in lead roles were as follows:
So as you can see, prior to "The Heat", the women in the male buddy cop films were largely relegated to "oh no, please save me!" type characterizations (or being moms who shoot at people). In each case, hard-boiled partners tracked down a suspect, potentially playing it for laughs, maybe pausing to pop a separated shoulder out on socket, all while underwater (and drowning) no less. Some of these films were solid, some not so much, but all of them pretty much missed the boat on both the 1) half the population and 2) women are also in law enforcement angle. It was as if Hollywood woke up each day, anew, and said "What are the fellas up to today? What's good out there, guys?"
In their defense, they did the same thing with "Best Director" for 80 odd years, so they're nothing if not consistent over there in tinsel town. Still, all of this historical testosterone goes a long way toward explaining why "The Heat" is a breathe of fresh air, though it's largely reminiscent of previous films. In some strange way, it's heartening to note women can get away with the same playbook as men, even if the real result is hopefully a new playbook at some point down the line.
All preaching aside, "The Heat" is a buddy cop comedy, and we'd do ourselves a disservice to not treat it like all the rest of them, while noting we appreciate the diversity. Melissa McCarthy is Boston PD Detective Mullins, and she fills the "bad/crazy" cop angle extremely well. She's the crassness of Mark Wahlberg in "The Other Guys" paired with the laughing at authority personality trait of Hutch in "Starsky and Hutch". She definitely doesn't do things by the book, but her heart and foul mouth are always in the right place, even though she's a walking, talking abuse of police power.
Which leaves Sandra Bullock, as FBI Special Agent Ashburn, as the square foil in the comedy. She's all about process, all about a kinder, gentler law enforcement, all about relying on her smarts while avoiding acts of physical intimidation. If you're out there saying, "well, that's basically the angle every buddy comedy takes, opposite ends of the spectrum equal laughs," then you'd be correct.
Now then, if one were looking for a similar movie, only in masculine film, there are many parallels between "The Heat" and "The Other Guys," almost to the point where they could be considered siblings, branches from the same comedy tree. The main difference between the two films is "The Other Guys" managed a PG-13, while "The Heat" is a hard, I repeat hard, R. The language used by McCarthy alone is epic, variations of cursing you rarely hear outside of prison exercise yards. Violence is also gleefully mixed in, and "The Heat" is the far more "in your face" of the two films.
But once you get past those angles, there are huge similarities, from Good Cop/Bad Cop routines all the way down to pacing and structure. "The Other Guys" is more preachy where the financial crisis is concerned, but in both cases the department leadership lets them down, the go rogue, and they need a montage with serious musical interludes to sort things out. Both films go to the well early and often on dry, deadpan, realistic comedy, which works well, and there are huge laughs to be had in each movie, including one near the end of "The Heat" which had me crushed me with hilarity. What I'm getting at is this - there are worse films to be compared to than "The Other Guys". That film is entertaining, this one is too, and fans of comedy won't be disappointed. Though a few of the angles are rote, the Boston accent comes to mind, the movie doesn't shy away from employs any and all means necessary to get at least a chuckle out of most scenes in the nearly two-hour running time.
What does "The Heat" get all wrong? It dips too far into "serious" mode for a ten minute section of the film that just should have been cut. We were having fun over here, "The Heat," not sure why you decided to take us to "Feelingsville". It's always strange when comedies make this choice, 90 minutes in, like a friend you take out to a bar who breaks down at 2am and tells you he's been living a lie. Whoa there, fella, let's just have another bottle of vino. Additionally, "The Heat" utilizes epic (and graphic) hip hop to set the tone, examples of which include Angel Haze's "Werkin Girls" and "212" from Azealia Banks (Oddly, "The Bling Ring" uses the same song, meaning Hollywood decadence and empowerment are finally colliding in one weird mishmash of cultural shifting).
Overall, "The Heat" executes a bawdy and belligerent comedy, meant mostly for folks looking for nothing more than to enjoy a few laughs. Nothing world-changing happens, but additionally nothing transpires which would indicate that women weren't meant for hard R cop comedies all along. It certainly seems as if we've been cutting off half the population, and all while miserably wasting Sandra Bullock's career with one lame rom-com after the other. I say we put a gun in her hand, a Melissa McCarthy at her side, and from here on out we just roll with switching things up.
SCORE: 7.9 / 10