Paul Feig and star Melissa McCarthy have teamed up again for another winner, hitting theaters this past weekend to very solid reviews and a very solid box office showing. Here's 2015's Spy.
For most of 10 years, Susan Cooper (McCarthy) has been an excellent analyst for the CIA, helping agents with her focus on details and all the little things. For years, she's worked with a suave, smooth and efficient agent, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), and has even developed some unanswered feelings for him. Now though, the CIA is in trouble. The daughter of a crime boss with ties to terrorists, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), has come into possession of a small-yield nuclear device and placed it out there for the highest bidder. An additional problem for the CIA? Boyanov knows the identity of all its field agents so anyone who would be sent to track her would be in even more danger. There's only one option, and that would be Susan. With no field experience and working all those years stashed away in a basement starting at a computer screen, Susan is tasked with tracking and identifying Rayna before she can sell the nuclear device. Heading into the real world of espionage with so much on the line, can Susan pull it off?
Give credit where it's due. When Feig and McCarthy team up, they've had nothing but solid results. More impressive than that though is how they do it. Comedies can be pretty run of the mill, a reason I don't always check new comedies out in theaters. This duo and their talented crews and casts look for familiar angles/stories and try to put a fresh, unique spin on those tried and true techniques. Bridesmaids had the girlish rom-com, Heat the buddy cop relationship and here with Spy, a deftly-handled almost-spoof of espionage flicks like the James Bond and Jason Bourne series. They find what makes those angles work and tweak them here and there for something familiar with something that usually catches you by surprise. Of the three, I'd put Spy right behind The Heat, but this new comedy was excellent. Go out and see it. You shan't be disappointed.
Not everybody seems to like her -- blame Identity Thief and Tammy -- but I'm a big Melissa McCarthy fan. I really, really disliked Identity Thief a few years back, but you had to admire her energy. She commits and goes hard for the laughs. So what about when the movie is good and she's on-board with that energy? As an audience, we're in for some fun. Yes, she's funny, but it's because she's able to switch back and forth effortlessly between impeccable line deliveries and perfect physical humor. There aren't a ton of actresses out there right now who are genuinely funny, but McCarthy is at or near the top of that list. Feig's script gives her plenty of chances for laughs, and she doesn't miss too many. Her Susan Cooper is a quiet, polite, detail-oriented systems analyst...until she isn't. Thrust into a hazardous mission after years of being desk-bound, Susan finds a hard edge that she puts to good use to bring things together. An excellent performance from the very funny McCarthy.
The script certainly has its fun with McCarthy's Cooper, sometimes too much. At times, I thought it went too far beating her down, cutting her out at the knees. When it works though, those moments are very funny. Case in point? Susan doesn't get a glamorous cover...far from it. She gets the chance to pose as a cat lady, a middle-aged mom, and all sorts of other embarrassing covers. Through it all, McCarthy goes for it, smoothing over some of the rough spots.
The movie's strongest moments are in its spoof-like qualities. I should say this clearly isn't a spoof of the spy genre. It just knows the genre, plays it seriously while having some serious fun with all the familiar genre touches. The opening credits play like a James Bond credits song, the opening action sequence has been in countless 007 flicks, and you feel like you're actually watching a Bond flick. The laughs though, my goodness, they're G-O-O-D. Jason Statham absolutely steals every scene he's in as Rick Ford, a grizzled CIA agent and a spy who is ALL that is man. He's seen everything and will let you know he's seen and survived everything the world can throw at him. His character consists of countless line deliveries explaining the harrowing experiences he's made it through, one more ridiculous than the other. I had two favorites. One, explaining how one of his arms was ripped off, but the other arm was able to put reattach it. Two, Ford offering to go into the Face/Off machine...as in the one used in the 1997 action movie Face/Off. Priceless stuff.
Some very talented people clearly enjoy working with Feig as a director, especially McCarthy. The cast is so good here, much of it the script but also worth mentioning is that they look to be having a ridiculous amount of fun. Statham is a scream, and Law as his co-worker but still rival agent goes for the more suave James Bond angle. As Statham's Ford explains it, a rivalry of MEN. Byrne hams it up just the right amount as the dastardly evil villain (with a giant hair-do) and has some great scenes with McCarthy as they go toe-to-toe. Along with McCarthy and Statham, my favorite part was Peter Serafinowicz as Aldo, Susan's Italian guide, a ladies man, constantly horny, and rather handsy. Too many good laughs to mention. Also worth mentioning is Miranda Hart as Nancy, Susan's work friend who's similarly bookish, a little mousey and looking for some fun In other supporting parts, look for Allison Janney, Morena Baccarin, Bobby Cannavale, and even 50 Cent making an appearance as himself.
This is a really easy movie to like, even love for some viewers no doubt. There aren't many comedies that are both really smart and really dumb at the same time, but this one qualifies. An extremely talented cast, a good script and unique ideas with people willing to think outside the box a little. Hard to beat that. Definitely go see this one.
Spy (2015): ***/****