The Heat may be the most tragic blunder since Pryzbylewski gunned down that plainclothes cop in Season 3 of The Wire. Despite the combined talents of Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, Parks and Recreation writer Katie Dippold and go-for-broke star Melissa McCarthy, the few jokes that hit their mark are severely overshadowed by the film's lousy rap sheet.
After rushing to team up Ashburn (Sandra Bullock), a buttoned-down FBI control freak, with Mullins (McCarthy), a borderline-feral Boston police detective, the action-comedy sets them off in lukewarm pursuit of a shadowy drug lord. With the film barely feigning interest in its own slapdash plot, it quickly devolves into a succession of scenes intended to reinforce that Ashburn is extremely straitlaced while Mullins is incredibly slovenly.
Feig and Dippold have both excelled with ensemble comedies, exploring (and exploiting) the unique dynamics between diverse characters. While Parks' Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson are wonderful comic creations (and significantly more nuanced than the cartoonish Ashburn and Mullins), the thought of them butting heads for two hours would give even the most ardent fan pause. Likewise, you can watch McCarthy and Bullock bounce off each other only for so long before the effect becomes about as amusing as staring at a Newton's cradle.
In terms of meeting its "buddy cop" requirements, The Heat is content to go through the paces, lacking the inclination or nerve to subvert expectations or tweak formulas like last year's 21 Jump Street. And while the choreography of that film's set pieces benefited from its directors' background as animators, the action sequences here betray a director who cut his teeth shooting dialogue-centric television. Regrettably, Feig's composition skills leave Judd Apatow looking like a visual stylist by comparison.
Like Apatow, his former Freaks and Geeks collaborator, Feig tends to become overly enamored with his stars, allowing them to riff for far too long. McCarthy is a nimble actor, but—as in the abysmal Identity Thief—she's reduced here to strictly a blunt-force weapon. Asking her to do little more than hurl f-bombs is just a crime.
Critic's Grade: C
SEE IT: The Heat is rated R. It opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Lloyd Center, Lloyd Mall, Pioneer Place.