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The Heat review: Paul Feig's mismatched buddy caper starring Sandra Bullock really stinks

(15) Paul Feig, 117mins, Starring: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy

Mismatched buddy caper The Heat is a real stinker of a film. It tries, bafflingly, to squeeze violence for laughs. A scene in which two women wisecrack after watching an acquaintance die in a car bomb could never be tasteful; but is it even funny?

That’s the formula this film keeps getting wrong. It stars Melissa McCarthy as an obese, potty-mouthed cop and Sandra Bullock as a prissy FBI agent who’s good at her job but unpopular with her colleagues (no one likes a smartarse, even less a female one). The Fed and the fuzz, teamed up on a drugs case, start out loathing one another. Can you guess the trajectory of their relationship thereafter?

On paper it looks a fair proposition. Director Paul Feig previously directed Bridesmaids, McCarthy was one of its break-out stars, and a female twist on the crime-fighting odd couple felt long overdue. But the jokes and the riffs, whether scripted or improvised, aren’t smart enough. It actually plays like a 1980s buddy movie juiced up with the recent strain of uninhibited “dirty” comedy pioneered by the Apatow crew (“Who closes the door to take a shit?”). When McCarthy bawls out her boss with a loud vulgar routine about the size of his balls, it’s not just unlikely –it’s unfunny, too.

I’m afraid my problem with it is McCarthy herself. Her galumphing charm in Bridesmaids has vanished entirely, replaced by a slobbish, hectoring vulgarity that overwhelms every scene she plays. She’s as obnoxious here as she was opposite Jason Bateman in Identity Thief, perhaps even more so, because now she has self-righteousness on her side. Would you laugh at a cop who when told by a nurse that mobile phones aren’t allowed in a hospital room pulls a gun on her?

As her comic foil Bullock fares a little better, though as usual we have to pretend to believe she’s a hopeless single woman. So, praise be, women have staked a claim on what was a male-dominated genre. That they have matched the blokes in every vicious and vulgar degree is somewhat less cheering.