Melissa McCarthy has always shown a great comedic skill — even during her supporting player days of "Gilmore Girls."
The problem has been that she gets involved with projects that go for the easy jokes about her weight. In the new buddy cop film "The Heat," she finally gets to show her pure comedy skills.
Her character has anger issues, no social skills, doesn't work well with others and could use some lessons in being tactful. But, the script by Katie Dippold doesn't go for the boringly obvious material, which makes this film far more entertaining.
McCarthy plays Shannon Mullins, a Boston detective who spends her free time tracking down criminals, mainly to avoid dealing with her wacky family. The free-spirited cop is tested when she gets paired with by-the-book Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock). While the pair adjust to working together, they also discover they can learn something from each other in their personal lives.
Not since Mel Gibson and Danny Glover traded jabs in the "Lethal Weapon" movies has there been such an entertaining partnership. Director Paul Feig gets the most out of his leads' different comedy styles, using Bullock's more controlled humor as a buffer for McCarthy's often manic style.
Allowing McCarthy to comically run free — as Feig did in "Bridesmaids" — has been a problem in some of her movies. But this performance shows how strong her comedy can get with a little more control and a script that doesn't go for the obvious.
Feig travels no new ground with the buddy cop genre, but even the familiar feels fresh in the hands of McCarthy and Bullock. They feed off each other's acting energy and give the movie its comic core. But they aren't on their own. Feig's loaded the movie with a sterling supporting cast, from a villain — who's equal parts creepy and funny — played by Michael McDonald to Mullins' always-bickering family, which is entertaining enough to have its own spinoff film.
The movie has a few lulls, including a bar scene where the partners bond. But the majority of the project moves at a smooth pace driven by the symbiotic relationships between McCarthy's energetic and Bullock's controlled performances.
"The Heat," rated R for language, crude humor. Stars Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Michael McDonald, Kaitlin Olson. Directed by Paul Feig. Running time: 117 minutes. Grade: B
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter.