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White Chicks

The Heat (2013)

Gemma La Mana/20th Century Fox

Even though the buddy-cop subgenre gets an estrogenic makeover with “The Heat,” it’s no less chauvinistic — unless your idea of gender equality is that men shouldn’t have the monopoly on assholery. Look, it’s certainly a woman’s prerogative to be deplorable if she chooses. To think otherwise would be quite sexist itself. But “The Heat” derives its comedy from the most grotesque stereotypes imaginable of careerist women, as if the moral of the whole story is that women who are capable of being collegial while juggling family and ambition could never amount to anything.

As F.B.I. Special Agent Sarah Ashburn, Sandra Bullock does a less amiable variation on her part in “Miss Congeniality.” A dour overachiever who is oblivious to social cues, Agent Ashburn must complete an assignment to apprehend a Boston drug kingpin and prove that she can work well with others in order to earn a promotion she covets. It’s just her luck that she must partner up with Melissa McCarthy’s Det. Shannon Mullins, an unkempt ballbuster who will bully women and men alike in order to get her way. It’s amazing that they manage to get anything accomplished between the unprofessional conduct and the catfights.

It’s a man’s world, and we get that women sometimes must act tough in order to succeed. But screenwriter Katie Dippold’s contempt for successful professional women is just so thinly veiled. Detective Mullins intimidates both colleagues and suspects as well as any alpha male could, but the film attributes her lack of tact and self-restraint to characteristically feminine traits such as being intuitive and emotional. Then Ms. Dippold went one step further to write their drive to succeed off as the product of dysfunctional or foster families, as if women with ordinary upbringings would have no ambition other than doing chores and raising kids. Even if broad-brush stereotypes are often necessary for comedies, it might have helped a great deal if Mses. Bullock and McCarthy had swapped their roles. If anything, Ms. Bullock as the aggressive brute and Ms. McCarthy as the straitlaced go-getter would have challenged these easy stereotypes and made them a tad less insulting to successful career women everywhere.


Opens on June 28 in the United States and on July 31 in Britain.

Directed by Paul Feig; written by Katie Dippold; director of photography, Robert Yeoman; edited by Brent White and Jay Deuby; music by Michael Andrews; production design by Jefferson Sage; costumes by Catherine Marie Thomas; produced by Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping; released by 20th Century Fox. Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Sandra Bullock (Sarah Ashburn), Melissa McCarthy (Shannon Mullins), Demian Bichir (Hale), Marlon Wayans (Levy) and Michael Rapaport (Jason Mullins).


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