Funny and Formulaic

Master of vulgarity Melissa McCarthy is the main reason to see The Heat, but she's reason enough

Sandra Bullock might be top billed, but Melissa McCarthy would be the reason folks should shell out this summer for The Heat. McCarthy, reuniting with her Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, gets more laughs in her first 10 minutes on screen in this picture than the Wolfpack got in the entire running time of The Hangover Part III.

As Mullins, one of those Boston police detectives who can only exist at the movies, McCarthy reminds us that she is one of the best comic actresses in movies today. When she's on a roll, anything she says is funny, especially when that anything is tagged with a creative array of obscenities. Not since Eddie Murphy was in his heyday has a performer spun an abundance of vulgarity so eloquently. She is the goddess of four-letter words.

Bullock complements her well as the straight-laced Ashburn, an FBI agent working in Boston to take out a notorious drug lord, and hopefully score herself a big promotion in the process. This is the type of role Bullock has played before, most notably in Miss Congeniality. This time, she isn't hamstrung by a PG-13 rating and family-friendly themes. She's trading verbal punches with McCarthy, and she's up for the task.

Mullins and Ashburn find their mismatched selves teamed up, of course, in cop-buddy movie genre style. They hate each other at first, but they will learn to respect and work well with each other as they take out the bad guys. En route to doing so they will, of course, have a drinking sequence where they bond and dance, and they will each learn a little something about themselves and the other that will make them better people.

Yes, The Heat is contrived and feels a little bit like a lot of other movies. But the combo of Bullock and McCarthy is such a winning one that you will forgive its sporadic lack of originality and occasional slow parts. When the film is firing on all cylinders, it has genuine laugh-out-loud moments.

I love that one of the DEA agents is an albino (Dan Bakkedahl), an albino with a bad temper who Mullins suspects could be dirty just because he's an albino (shades of Gary Busey in Lethal Weapon). It's also great to see Tom Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future) as a frustrated police chief prematurely aged due to Mullins and her breaking-the-rules crap.

And, I swear, when a villain called Mullins "a Campbell's Soup kid who grew up and turned alcoholic," I probably laughed harder than I have at any movie this year.

I expect McCarthy to be funny, and she often is. I didn't like her in this year's Identity Thief, but that was a poorly written vehicle whose failure wasn't necessarily her fault. Bullock, on the other hand, has never struck me as remarkably funny in her comedic efforts (although she has gotten a few giggles out of me on awards shows). The Heat proves that she might just be most at home in an R-rated comedy with somebody funnier than her holding her up.

I'm thinking The Heat might be the very first pure female cop-buddy picture. If there is another one, it probably wasn't that good because I can't remember it, so it's not worth noting. This one, although plenty of clicks short of a classic, does stand proud among stuff like 48 Hrs., Lethal Weapon and the Will Ferrel/Mark Wahlberg laugher The Other Guys.

While Feig couldn't talk Kristen Wiig into making a Bridesmaids sequel, I'm thinking he will have better luck getting McCarthy and Bullock on board for more with these characters. Bullock hasn't had something this good in a long while (I even thought The Blind Side was overrated) and McCarthy will be game, for sure.

So, if you are looking for laughs right now, this one or Seth Rogen's This Is the End will do the trick. Don't let The Hangover Part III into your face, though. That thing will cause you immeasurable damage.

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