Sandra Bullock appears in “The Heat” as uptight FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, a fish out of water when she is sent to Boston on assignment. Here she meets tough-girl Boston detective Shannon Mullins, played by Melissa McCarthy. The pairing of these two actresses is that rare matchup that works better onscreen than it looks on paper.
The comedy, trending toward bawdy and rowdy, finds sweet juxtaposition between Bullock’s restrained presence and McCarthy’s uninhibited persona. In addition to McCarthy’s unique line delivery, her extra-large size is a bonus, rather than a hindrance, to her physical comedy.
Natural-beauty Bullock proves herself a top-drawer straight woman exhibiting chops of her own, but the FBI agent shines most brightly when seen through the eyes of street-pounding detective Mullins, who struggles to understand Ashburn’s straight-laced attitude.
Having long fended for themselves in the male-dominated world of law enforcement, the two women have dealt with their threatened male co-workers by electing to work independently. However, when Sarah is sent to investigate a string of Boston murders, the women reluctantly team up.
Bullock’s character is bedeviled with commitment issues while McCarthy’s struggles to overcome her abandonment fears. They finally allow themselves to depend upon one another after realizing their commonalities trump their differences.
The story, told in a rather straightforward manner, overflows with comic surprises, nearly making us fail to notice a beeline towards its friendship-makes-everything-better message.
My multiplex bet its larger theaters on the male-dominated “Man of Steel,” “White House Down” and on the family-oriented “Monsters University.” Surprisingly, “The Heat,” shown in a small side theater, was filled nearly to capacity and the film’s box office receipts beat out all but “Monsters University.” Women, voting with their pocket books, are blowing raspberries at male-dominated studios and movie theaters.