Craig's First Take: "The Heat"

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Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy star as female law enforcement officers with wildly incompatible personalities and work styles. When an important work assignment requires that they team up to track a ruthless drug lord, the result is something no one expected. From the director of "Bridesmaids".
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Melissa McCarthy needed one this year. She didn’t have to score twice but she definitely needed at least one that proves without a shadow of a doubt that she could be funny and leading lady. “Identity Thief” was not that movie, a debacle of a comedy where the only real joke was film critic Rex Reed. But the difference between “Identity Thief” and “The Heat” is night and day. Like many comedians she goes the cop route but what’s surprising is how fast she lets her shtick fly, how often she manages to totally nail a comedic bit, and how likable she manages to be while completely eviscerating the people around her.

 
But in addition to McCarthy, “The Heat” is also a score for women this summer, a seeming minority in all the super-hero, sci-fi, and action extravaganzas. This is the best Sandra Bullock has been in a while and it’s also the movie debut of writer Katie Dippold, a writer on the TV show “Parks and Recreation” who was named by Variety as a writer to look out for. They weren’t kidding. Dippold writes to McCarthy’s outspoken strengths, including hilarious running-gags about albinos.

 
“The Heat” honors those cop movie clichés. McCarthy is a grungy, foul-mouthed, temperamental Boston detective named Mullins, whose renegade, guns-blazing ways are a tiresome nuisance to her Captain and department. Bullock is FBI Agent Ashburn, a relative hot shot in the field but whose arrogant ways and lame, straight-laced lifestyle have left her with not much personal life. The case of a big time drug dealer leads the two to partnering up in Boston. Will the chemistry be prickly? Sure. Will they bond over being two tough women in a misogynist profession of men? Also yes.

 
But possibly the best complement I can give “The Heat” is that the plot, as well as most other things in this movie, soon fades into the background in favor of non-stop laughs. McCarthy revels in having the freedom of an R-rating and a bunch of swear words at her disposal but she also has a savagely witty way with a line (Tony Hale, from “Arrested Development” and “Veep”, is perfectly cast as a hapless sap who falls into her line of fire) and actually her sympathetic judging of the uncool Bullock character is just as much of a hoot, like in a hilarious nightclub bathroom scene. There were times here where I wanted to compare her to Eddie Murphy in “Beverly Hills Cop”, she’s that funny in this movie.

 
Mullin’s dead- beat Boston family also provide a few solid laughs while McCarthy’s “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig again shows a sure hand for comedy, even if he does again let everything run a tad too long. But the big story here is McCarthy, packing in the jokes and wicked sense of humor. “The Heat” winds up being nearly everything a McCarthy fan could have possibly wanted.