Movie review: ‘Spy’Movie Review, Bottom Highlights Thursday, June 4th, 2015
Spy is the first Melissa McCarthy movie since Bridesmaids that is actually good. Bridesmaids made her a superstar and got her an Oscar nomination, but her subsequent movies, while profitable, have not deserved her talent. From Identity Thief to Tammy, the films have allowed McCarthy plenty of space to be funny, but they have been terribly plotted or easily forgettable. Spy, written and directed by Paul Feig, who also directed Bridesmaids, is another McCarthy vehicle, but it provides her with a complex inner life, tremendous co-stars and more laughs per minute than any film this year. Happily, it’s also rated R, so McCarthy gets to be as filthy as she wants.
McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a CIA agent who never leaves her subbasement desk at Langley. She just sits there and helps another agent, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), with his missions, radioing into his ear the locations of bad guys, weapons and shortcuts. She’s extraordinarily competent, but she allowed Bradley to keep her at her desk because she was so helpful, and she stayed because she was in love with him. When he’s killed by a vampy arms dealer named Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) who knows the identities of all of the covert agents, Susan is sent into the field because no one knows her face.
Her boss Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) sends Susan to Paris with a deeply unsexy cover, about which Susan says, “I look like someone’s homophobic aunt.” Charged with just watching the bad guys and reporting back, Susan veers off missions and gets involved with bombs, guns and car chases. Susan is terrified but excited, and she surprises everyone by how great a spy she is, from fooling Rayna to winning in hilarious hand-to-hand combat. The spy caper plot gets messier and James Bondian, but the action never detracts from the comedy or from Susan’s development as an agent and a fully self-confident woman.
McCarthy’s patented under-her-breath dirty jokes work extremely well in Spy, partly because we’re led to believe that she is a schlubby cat lady, so the jokes are a surprise, and partly because they are very, very funny (but unprintable in this publication). Susan is endearing and sympathetic because she looks and acts a lot more like a typical American woman than absurdly skinny Rose Byrne does. Her quest to become a superspy is all the more fun because it is seemingly impossible for a woman who everyone assumes is uncoordinated and weak. But she’s actually not what we assume; she’s almost superheroic in her abilities.
The supporting cast is roundly fantastic. Miranda Hart plays Susan’s helper at Langley Nancy, who is similarly underestimated and hilarious in her gawkiness and bravery. Byrne is fantastic as Rayna, a rich and violent Eastern European with no conscience or patience with the people she assumes are the underclass. The insults she casually lobs at Susan, her looks, and her clothes are very funny.
The big surprise is Jason Statham playing Rick Ford, a parody of the kind of action heroes he normally plays. Bragging, he claims to have done numerous physically impossible things in order to show how Susan will never be good enough to compete with him. But he’s actually incompetent, and she has to clean up his messes, which she does with a roll of her eyes. Law, Janney, Bobby Cannavale (as another arms dealer) and Peter Serafinowicz (as a supposedly Italian spy) all appoint themselves nicely.
Written and Directed by Paul Feig
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne and Jason Statham
Opens at your local multiplex June 5
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