Spy: Film Review
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Miranda Hart, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Alison Janney
Director: Paul Feig
After stinkers like Tammy and The Heat, the prospect of another Melissa McCarthy helmed comedy is not one that many may relish.
So, it's more than pleasing to report that, for the large part, Spy is a brilliantly funny and engaging comedy that sees McCarthy present her most likable showcase of comedy and character, replete with gross out moments that you'd expect from the re-teaming of the Bridesmaids director and star.
McCarthy is Susan Cooper, a deskbound CIA agent, who works in a vermin infested basement guiding her James Bond-style spy, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), on various dangerous missions. The rub is that Cooper was top of all her classes and was always sidelined from active duty, but has now the intelligence to work the desk, and practically save the day via satellite and ear-piece.
However, when a rogue nuke and a highly coiffured, tightly wound baddie Rayna, played with bitchy chutzpah by Rose Byrne, threatens the entire world, Coop's got no choice but to head into the field...
As already mentioned, this farcical pastiche of all of those spy films from your youth, works a lot better than your deepest fears would suggest, thanks in no small way to McCarthy's performance and Feig's realisation that an ensemble comedy with individual moments is the right way to go. (Peter Serafinowicz as a handsy Italian compadre and Miranda Hart's channeling of her own klutzy TV character also complement the team feel)
It's also very funny too, with Statham brilliantly sending up the action man career choices he's made and roundly mocking the genre with his character Ford, a spy who believes Coop's out of her depth and will blow the mission because she doesn't have the skills he's mastered. Feig's wise enough to know that by limiting Statham's presence and utilising his action skills sparingly, he superbly contributes to the feel of Spy.
There are a few moments when perhaps the R-rated humour borders on going too far and the crass could have been dialled back - but seeing Cooper blow chunks over a downed assassin is perhaps the icing on the edgy cake, as opposed to some lazy fart gags deployed on a falling plane as the global trot continues.
But it's McCarthy's film through and through; she's imbued Cooper with a sympathetic edge that's appealing from the get-go. Whether it's railing against the mousey disguises the agency's given her ("I look like someone's homophobic aunt" she decries at one point - a sly mocking of the glamour of spy films and also of the perception of her) or keeping the riffing under control, she really does shine through. It's a timely reminder that with the right material and clearly the right director in Feig, she's less irritating than the material of other films have afforded her.
Feig gets the pastiche of the spy genre down pat from Bond style credits to a feel at times of Get Smart, but he doesn't border too far on parody choosing to slyly mock the conventions of the genre, and pepper it with some, at times unnecessary, R-rated gags. He's tapped brilliantly again into the rivalries and insecurities of his female leads (a la Bridesmaids) and they get to rule the roost.
Roundly mixing the bawdy with the bluster, Spy is a pleasant surprise; it's a chance for McCarthy to cement her position as a comedienne who excels when the material is right.
Your mission - should you choose to accept it - is to go into Spy, with an open mind. You may well be pleasantly surprised.