Maybe I’m out of touch. Maybe I need to re-evaluate my idea of what constitutes funny. I remember a time when comedy didn’t just consist of relentless swearing and horrible behaviour. However, the roaring laughter of the audience in my screening of The Heat seemed to suggest I am wrong, as we were subjected to an hour and a half of Melissa McCarthy being as insufferable and unnecessarily mean as she possibly can.
McCarthy joins Sandra Bullock in the unlikely partnership of police officer and FBI agent tasked with tracking down a drug mobster. Bullock plays the uptight workaholic FBI Special Agent, and McCarthy the rough-talking, no-nonsense street cop. It’s a Lethal Weapon-esque buddy cop movie, Jim, but not as we know it.
Paul Feig, hot off the massive success of 2011’s Bridesmaids, directs this foul-mouthed and predictable action romp. After the surprise female-oriented hit written by and starring Kristen Wiig, Feig has turned again to female comedy, yet in an interview with the BBC he was keen to discourage any such labels.
“There are so many funny women out there, so many funny women that I want to work with…I would just like to break down the wall where it’s not even looked at as a male comedy or a female comedy – a comedy is a comedy.”
It certainly is refreshing to see women at the forefront of a typically misogynistic genre, and Bullock’s performance in the role is strong and confident with the A-lister unafraid to make fun of herself. While several sequences seemed to just milk a string of increasingly bad language for laughs, one particular scene where McCarthy and Bullock’s characters let their hair down after work stands out as being laugh-out-loud funny.
Perhaps it is the screenplay penned by Parks and Recreation writer and fellow woman Katie Dippold that allows the actresses to slip so easily into character. It seems a shame that gender politics should even be part of the discussion of a 21st century comedy film, but such is the nature of the industry and the reason for Feig’s ambition to “level the playing field.” With so many films nowadays failing the Bechdel test, filmmakers could take a lesson from the matter-of-fact attitude of The Heat.
Gunfights and bursts of violence are frequent enough to rival any testosterone-fuelled flick, but the confident performances aren’t enough to elevate the film above slightly entertaining. If anything, McCarthy’s intensely unlikeable character will make you wonder why you’re watching the film in the first place, so unappealling and tiresome is her company. You’ll find yourself checking your watch in some of her prolonged abuse-athons – at least until Bullock commands the screen again.
The Heat won’t be remembered for dramatically changing the gender landscape in comedy films, and it certainly doesn’t break any boundaries in comedy itself, but it does make for some interesting viewing and raises a couple of chuckles worth your Friday night tenner.