Melissa McCarthy Turns the James Bond Prototype on its Head in ‘Spy’
Going by the marketing alone, you might have assumed that Spy is 120 minutes' worth of Melissa McCarthy doing some Chris Farley-style physical comedy. We've all seen her handle that capably, and yes, she does find funny ways to fall down four-to-five times throughout the film. But director Paul Feig, who made McCarthy a movie star in 2011's Bridesmaids, lets McCarthy's comic talent, vulnerability and strength shine in equal measure.
Spy isn't the first movie to depict secret agents who are hilariously bad at their jobs —there's the Get Smart reboot with Steve Carell, for one — nor is it the first to show inter-spy relations at the spy-office. But Spy mines a lot of laughs from the concept of a CIA headquarters that shares the same mundane downers you'd see at the average workplace (sad-sack birthday celebrations, HR violations, etc.). Perhaps the most inspired idea it explores is the way a quietly-accepted lookism propels attractive alpha-types into prominent field agent roles, while less-polished employees with the same training are relegated to desk jobs as analysts.
McCarthy's Susan Cooper is one such analyst, whose self esteem has been eroded by a dream-killing mother and her handsome coworker crush (Jude Law). When a series of events initiated by Bridesmaids' Rose Byrne place Susan in the thick of the action, she attempts to reform everyone's incorrect assumption that she's a meek desk jockey who owns a lot of cats. Her frumpy disguises are ridiculous, but McCarthy's action-star chops are legit.
It takes awhile for the action to get off the ground — the movie is called Spy, so you're gonna want some high-flying espionage with your comedy — but it moves at an engaging clip once it does (a fight in a restaurant's kitchen is a standout). There are strong performances across the board, including the perfectly acidic Allison Janney as Susan's CIA boss, and Jason Statham. The Furious 7 actor is surprisingly hilarious here, and the world needs more Statham-McCarthy interaction as soon as possible — Spy is definitely sequel material.
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