By Don Simpson | October 20, 2013
Director: Paul Feig
Writer: Katie Dippold
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demian Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Jane Curtin, Spoken Reasons, Dan Bakkedahl, Taran Killam, Michael McDonald, Tom Wilson, John Ross Bowie
While buddy cop movies like Lethal Weapon and 48 Hours have often been used at tools for Hollywood to maneuver itself around race relations, it is somewhat surprising that it took so damn long for a female-centric buddy cop movie to come out of Hollywood — and, yes, of course it just had to be directed by a male. (But at least the screenplay was written by a woman, right?) Just like seemingly every other film to come out of the Hollywood system nowadays, Paul Feig’s The Heat utilizes the same formulaic conventions as all of the other over-the-top male buddy cop movies, albeit this time (finally!) with female actors.
Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are literally dropped into the historically male lead roles as the cinematically tried and true Odd Couple: Bullock as the obsessive-compulsive straight [wo]man, McCarthy as the messy goofball. Bullock’s Ashburn is way too smart for her own good and possesses a sublime knack for pissing off her male peers at the FBI by making them all look like incompetent buffoons. McCarthy’s Mullins uses her brash unpredictability (yeah, she’s a loose cannon) as a way to intimidate others, especially her male counterparts and superiors. In other words, they both act like stereotypical male cops. Other than occasionally commenting upon their struggle to succeed in a male-dominated world, The Heat has very little to say about Ashburn or Mullins’ gender. It seems as though Feig’s only intention is to show that these two female protagonists can mimic anything their male predecessors have already done. The Heat is not about women doing things differently or better than men, it is about them doing the exact same thing. Sure, it is kind of hilarious to watch these two women steamroll their way over any man who gets in their way, but is this really advancing the roles of female characters in Hollywood comedies?
Where The Heat does [kind of] succeed is in presenting us with two [almost] fleshed-out characters with realistic motivations behind [some of] their actions, but where The Heat fails is in its over-reliance on making fun of people for comedic effect. As much as I enjoy Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, I think it could have been much better served by a female director. The same goes for The Heat. In what should have been the spirit of this film, I would have liked to see a female director be given an opportunity to prove to Hollywood that a woman can do this job better than a man.