The buddy cop action comedy genre has thrown up memorable double acts over the years; Lethal Weapon’s Riggs and Murtagh, Angel and Butterman from Hot Fuzz, and Tango and Cash’s…uh…Tango and Cash. It’s been a very male dominated area of cinema, so while it’s initially refreshing to have a female buddy cop movie, with strong leads in Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, as it wears on, you begin to realise they’ve left out the ‘comedy’ part.
Bridesmaids director Paul Feig reunites with that movie’s breakout star (here, playing more or less the same role as she did in Bridesmaids) and puts her together with Bullock, an actress who’s underrated as a comedy performer. It’s a classic odd couple set up that hits all the expected beats; one is a by-the-book uptight FBI agent, the other a foul mouthed uncouth reckless beat cop. I’ll let you work out which one’s which. Tasked with tracking down a local dealer who’s been killing off the competition, Mullins (McCarthy) and Ashburn (Bullock) are teamed up, and their personalities clash and hilarity ensues, right?
McCarthy has a way with inventive (presumably ad-libbed) insults, and Bullock is able to make the most out of the less showy role as, but for the first two acts of the film, with the characters more often than not at each others throats there isn’t very much in the way of likability, or real genuine laughs. A worrying trend in recent comedies is that to be considered funny all you need to have is a wacky character somewhere in the mix. And maybe a character who swears a lot. Because swearing’s funny, right? Well, no.
In fact, the film only gets some proper laughs in the final act, when the characters are allowed to cut loose a little bit (especially Bullock, whose attempt to traverse a hospital whilst in extreme pain is the film’s funniest moment) and the very flimsy plot is knocked up a gear and the eventual chemistry that arises between the leads helps gloss over the bad taste that the earlier cruder gags leave in the mouth. Up until then we have interminably long (unfunny) scenes with Mullins’ family, each of whom is just as annoying as Mullins herself, and scenes where Mullins is just being a horrible person to create some forced comedy.
And while it’s nice to see a film that champions its female leads, and passes the Bechdel test admirably, that it forgets to have a decent jokes quota is the film’s biggest problem.
An overlong, largely laugh free affair, enlivened only by a slightly redeeming final act.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
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