Spy is yet another spoof of the James Bond/spy-movie genre—and it’s a good one, thanks to the presence of Melissa McCarthy.
It doesn’t hurt that the film is written and directed by Paul Feig, who gave McCarthy an Oscar-nominated role in Bridesmaids. The two followed up that piece of comic brilliance with fun police-buddy comedy The Heat.
Now comes Spy, in which McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a CIA agent chained to a desk in service of her field partner, Bradley Fine (Jude Law). However, circumstances call for Susan to go into the field for the first time, and she must leave her bat-infested CIA basement behind.
While Susan is hoping for a cool spy name and awesome spy gadgets, her commander (an acerbic Allison Janney) insists upon cat-lady cover identities and gadgets disguised in rape whistles and hemorrhoid wipes.
In the field, Susan must do battle with an evil arms trader, Rayna (played by a deliciously nasty Rose Byrne), while contending with rogue agent Rick Ford (a surprisingly hilarious Jason Statham) who doesn’t believe she is up to the task. The mission takes her all over the world, to locales like Rome and Paris, and requires her to sport some embarrassing grandma wigs.
One of the film’s great running gags is how relatively unattractive the whole spy racket is. While James Bond gets to race around in an Aston Martin, Susan does her chasing on a clumsy scooter. While Bond had the best of hotel accommodations, Susan is put up in a hotel full of rats. While the CIA basement has awesome computers and high-tech gadgets, it is infested with bats and rodents that shit on birthday cakes.
Another great running gag: Susan, despite years of sitting behind a desk, turns out to be quite the badass in a fight. Some of the best scenes in the movie involve her in impressive knife and gun skills.
While McCarthy is impressive as a physical comedienne, McCarthy’s true strengths lie in her ability to shoot off rapid-fire insults at unsuspecting victims. She and Byrne have a couple of verbal square-offs in this film during which you have to believe the two actresses were given permission to just go at it and see what happens. Trust me: You don’t want to face off with McCarthy in an insult contest. The deck is stacked against you.
Speaking of “face off”: Statham’s boneheaded and extremely funny character firmly believes the CIA has a face-off machine like the one used in the classic Travolta-Cage showdown. Statham has never really been given a chance to show his comedic chops before. Not only does he rise to the occasion; he demonstrates that perhaps his career has been going in the wrong direction. Get this man into more comedies!
Next up for the Feig-McCarthy combo is Ghostbusters, a new film featuring a female roster. Fellow Bridesmaids alum Kristen Wiig is in the fold, as are Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Leslie Jones, all from Saturday Night Live.
I still think the best Melissa McCarthy movie moment is her outtake at the end of Judd Apatow’s This Is 40, but there’s no doubt that Feig gets the best film performances out of her. Spy gets credit for letting her show off her entire comedic arsenal rather than just having her fall down a lot.
Spy is playing in theaters across the valley.