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Despite laughs, Bullock, McCarthy don't bring 'The Heat'

‘The Heat'

★★

R

Wide release

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By Barbara Vandenburgh
Thursday, June 27, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
 

On his last directorial outing, Paul Feig steered potty-mouthed comedy “Bridesmaids” to a nearly $300 million gross and a surprise Oscar nomination for breakout star Melissa McCarthy. With those two talents teamed up again, it's disappointing that “The Heat” doesn't do more than take an established film template — in this case, the buddy-cop flick — throw in a Tarantino-size helping of F-bombs, cast a couple of women and call it a day.

Sandra Bullock stars as FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn, the yin to Melissa McCarthy's yang as Boston cop Shannon Mullins. You know the drill: Ashburn is a fussy slave to procedure; Mullins is a slovenly loose cannon. Ashburn wears Spanx; Mullins wears sweatpants. Rinse, repeat.

On the prowl for a job promotion, career-driven Ashburn takes a gig in Boston, hunting down a mysterious drug lord. There, she's teamed up with Mullins, a crude cop with a fridge full of ammo whose contacts prove indispensable to solving the case. They can't stand each other, but they need each other.

It's as formulaic as these things get, to the point where the film can't even feign much interest in its own unnecessarily muddled plot.

McCarthy is not infrequently hilarious, wringing profane humor out of easy jokes that would've fallen flat without her charisma.

Bullock's character provides less opportunity for crude humor and her spinster catlady shtick is less endearing. She's essentially playing a riff on her “Miss Congeniality” character, yet another unfeminine FBI agent who blossoms when she's forced outside her comfort zone. She's a funny woman, and she does what she can with the material, but she all but disappears in the glow of whatever wanton magic McCarthy is working.

A sprawling, unfocused script from writer Katie Dippold is partially to blame. Her television pedigree lends itself more to improvisation (she's got loads of “Parks and Recreation” and “MADtv” writing credits), and her talent for episodic and sketch comedy doesn't translate to a two-hour-long feature film. Scenes go on too long. Jokes outwear their welcome.

Even though McCarthy keeps the laughs coming, “The Heat” doesn't really pack enough.

Barbara VanDenburgh is a staff writer for the Arizona Republic.

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