Bullock and McCarthy bring it in ‘The Heat’

UnknownThere have been quite a few strong female cops on television in the last three decades. Cagney and Lacey, Olivia Benson, Jane Tennison, Kate Beckett, Jane Rizzoli. On film? Not so much. Yeah, you’ve got a few FBI agents, like Clarice Starling. And Gracie Hart. But cops? Well… And female buddy cop movies? Nope.

That’s why “The Heat,” starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, which opened last weekend, is such a nice change. More, please!

Of course, being a pioneer in the genre puts tons of pressure on film-makers Paul Feig (who directs) and Katie Dippold (who wrote the screenplay). Fail, and they represent all women cops on film ever, and everyone goes back to thinking they won’t sell.

Luckily, “The Heat” is hilarious, and it’s not necessarily because of the plot, which is pretty basic police procedural. The two stars, particularly McCarthy, are what makes this watchable. (As are lots of smaller cameos from actors from SNL and “In Living Color.” Jane Curtin is hilarious as the pissy mom.)

Bullock plays very talented and by-the-book special agent Sarah Ashburn. She is great at solving cases, but sucks at working with others. One of her specialties is humiliating incompetent drug-sniffing dogs. When she sees a chance at promotion, her boss tells her her only chance is to find a particularly brutal drug lord working in Boston.

Off she goes, and soon runs into McCarthy’s Shannon Mullins, a very talented but very much renegade detective. Like Ashburn, Mullins is far from popular. She’s even pissed off her dysfunctional family by putting her brother Jason (Michael Rapaport) in jail for dealing drugs. She’s not wrong – it was a last-ditch effort to get Jason out of a life of crime, and unlike the rest of the family, he appreciates her for it.

When McCarthy and Mullins meet, it’s like the requisite oil and water. Each hates the other. But the grudging respect soon grows, and they turn out to be the perfect match at the end, etc., etc.

Both actresses throw themselves into the parts, and have great rapport, and great comic timing, which leads to some huge laughs.

For Bullock, it’s not such a stretch, since she’s done the whole uptight brainiac who softens before. “Two Weeks Notice” and “The Proposal” come to mind.

McCarthy, however – Mullins is very similar to Megan, the butch sister-in-law in “Bridesmaids.” She is even frumpier, though, and packs weaponry and lots more f-bombs. But the sheer joy with which McCarthy tackles the role (and every perp she can think of) makes it impossible to stop watching her, or stop her from stealing every scene.

That said, it would have been interesting if Bullock had played Mullins and McCarthy had played Ashburn. For Bullock it might have been too close to Gracie Hart in “Miss Congeniality,” but it would have been great for McCarthy.

Many moons ago, McCarthy played Sookie St. James in “Gilmore Girls.” Sookie was another strong, well-developed female character. She was also gorgeous, and her weight was never an issue (like it became a central issue in “Mike and Molly,” at least in the first seasons) , or an excuse for frumpiness or pity. Melissa McCarthy is a beautiful woman. Why is she only funny nowadays if she hides that?

What’s wrong with being gorgeous AND fat?

But anyway, “The Heat” is a lot of fun, and here’s hoping it will become a franchise, that will spawn other female buddy cop franchises. More, please!