Ostensibly Kristen Wiig’s show to steal, Bridesmaids found standout moments for just about everyone in its cast. That’s not the case with Paul Feig’s follow-up, The Heat, an unevenly matched buddy-cop comedy that amounts to a feature-length showcase for Melissa McCarthy riffing. But the humor value of that prospect should not be underestimated. As an unflappable Boston cop with a flagrant disregard for protocol (and due process?), she’s introduced busting a john by grabbing his cell phone and dialing his wife. The non sequiturs keep coming: Informed by her superior she’ll have to defer to Sandra Bullock’s FBI stiff, who’s taking over the case, she starts sifting through his office. (“She’s looking for my balls,” he explains to Bullock.) Upon finding out what an overpriced whiskey will cost her, she replies, “Is it served in Jesus’ shoe?”
It’d be possible to watch a whole movie of outtakes like this, and frankly, that’s what much of The Heat resembles. The logic used to team a street-level officer with a relentlessly by-the-book federal agent is flimsy at best, so it’s a buzzkill whenever the film (written by Parks And Recreation vet Katie Dippold) takes a time-out from its inspired randomness to attend to a half-assed drug-bust plot. Part of the point here is to stake a claim on a genre that’s traditionally been a boys’ club, and in that regard, The Heat delivers: In a bonding moment, this odd couple goes on a bender as epic as anything in The Hangover. Their enthusiasm with weapons should alarm viewers across all demographics and species.
Meanwhile, the movie struggles to get laughs from anyone other than McCarthy. Bullock is adequate as a foil, but her task is to play it straight, while some of the peripheral gags (Dan Bakkedahl turning up as a sexist albino DEA agent; Boston-accent jokes involving McCarthy’s family, headed by an underused Jane Curtin) play like fallback material. Is a less patchy version of The Heat imaginable? At just shy of two hours, it could stand to pick up the pace. The movie packs heat but not momentum.