<em>The Heat</em>

In this surprisingly deft and laugh-fueled summer romp, the gags and genre tics are mostly the same, but the gender has changed, to deflect the presumed innocence of the fairer sex. Yes, it’s the old odd-coupling buddy yarn once again, with the fresh angle being the presence of two women, each kick-ass in her own special way.

In one corner, we have the comic force of nature that is Melissa McCarthy, with her volatile and jumbo talent, in fine — which is to say “rough” — form. Here she is wicked funny as the foul-mouthed Boston PD detective with a refrigerator stocked with firearms and a mouth ever ready with killing insults or virtuosic obscenities. Sandra Bullock is the pantsuit-wearing Yale graduate seeking a promotion at the Bureau, slightly clumsy and by-the-bookish, who gets her man, dead or alive, and eventually learns the art of cussing thanks to her new partner.

Female power, as well as empowerment, is woven into the film, including the work of its makers, first-time screenwriter Katie Dippold, of TV’s Parks and Recreation fame, and director Paul Feig, whose Bridesmaids was a sneaky, snarky feel-good hit of its season (also blessed with the McCarthy factor). The plot of The Heat? It’s something about an FBI agent and Boston cop’s search for a mysterious and especially brutal drug lord. But what matters more than storyboard or genre is the crackling — and occasionally warm and fuzzy — screen presence of the principals. There are multiple scenes worth bookmarking in our movie-brain databases, including the drunken evening in a squalid bar, an improvised emergency procedure in a Denny’s, and a wacky family dinner with a working-class Boston family, complete with translational difficulties and the pronunciation of “narc.”

Actually, one of the disappointments is the lack of goofball and gaffe-ish outtakes in the end credits. Throughout the film we get the feeling that McCarthy’s improvisational heat on-set is such that she routinely heads off-script and arouses laughter from her coworkers. Then again, outtakes would have pulled the fourth curtain and detracted from the sisterly love of these characters, who may be meeting in sequel land before long. This bloody funny pair is onto something good and bad.


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