Melissa McCarthy is an interesting performer. On the one hand, she has overcome the stereotypical image of what a leading lady should look like, which is great, but on the other hand, about every other movie of hers is garbage. She was great in Bridesmaids and The Heat, but Identity Thief was not good and Tammy was an affront to God. Does her latest, Spy, keep the pattern going or does it signal another downturn in the quality of McCarthy’s work?
Written and Directed by Paul Feig, Spy has McCarthy playing Susan Cooper, a support member with the CIA, who works exclusively with Bradley Fine (Jude Law), an agent in the mold of James Bond. Fine wouldn’t be half the agent he is without Susan’s work, which is something he acknowledges. Of course, she’s totally in love with him. However, when a nuclear weapon goes missing and villainess Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) learns the identities of all the CIA’s secret agents, Susan’s boss Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) agrees to put Susan in the field to find Rayna and the weapon. Agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) doesn’t agree with this course of action and strikes out on his own, while Susan’s friend Nancy (Miranda Hart) becomes her support person. Susan heads into the field in over her head and making it up as she goes along and that’s when the funny happens.
The good news is that Spy does indeed continue McCarthy’s dubious streak and it is a winner. In fact, it’s the funniest film of the year thus far. While at first it seems like a spoof of James Bond, it is more of a spoof of later spy films like Mission: Impossible and the like. In fact, if I have one complaint about Spy, it’s that its story is a little lazy in that it hits all the usual spy movie tropes. It gets somewhat of a pass on this since the film is a spoof and is supposed to hit those clichés, but it would have been nice to have been surprised by the plot when I wasn’t laughing my ass off. Also, about halfway through the film, Susan Cooper seems to morph into McCarthy’s Detective Mullins from The Heat. Yes, Mullins was absolutely hilarious in The Heat and she’s funny here too, but it made it feel like McCarthy was a little one note by going back to that well. Other than those quibbles, though, the film is great with a hilarious script that really showcases McCarthy. Feig has truly found his De Niro in McCarthy.
The cast is crazy good here. McCarthy’s Susan Cooper is great because she isn’t a secretary being tossed into the field, she’s a highly competent agent who is out of practice with her training. This way, you get a character you can believe could pull off all the things Susan does, but if she messes up, you can chalk it up to rustiness. She’s definitely out of her league, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that she could keep up. Jude Law is great as Fine, but the biggest question I had with his character was why he put on an American accent when someone like Statham kept his accent. Speaking of Statham, after seeing this film, you’ll be wondering why he’d ever go back to action movies again after stealing all his scenes in this big budget comedy. The guy is absolutely hilarious. A lot of that credit goes to Feig’s fantastic script, but Statham plays his arrogant agent completely straight and that’s what makes him so successful here. Byrne continues her evolution into a full-time comedic actress and does a great job here as the villain. The supporting cast is also very funny from Hart to Janney to Bobby Cannavale and Morena Baccarin. Look out for two great cameos from Michael McDonald and Zach Woods.
Overall, Spy is the funniest film of the year to this point. It really plays to McCarthy’s strengths and presents her Susan Cooper as a smart, competent character who is in over her head. My only quibble is that the plot could have been a bit more original. This is the third successful collaboration between Feig and McCarthy and it makes me look forward to their next team-up: Ghostbusters. Definitely check Spy out.