Spy – 2015
Written and Directed by Paul Feig
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, Jude Law, Miranda Hart, Peter Serafinowicz
Melissa McCarthy is unique in the world of comedy. If you don’t know why, then you haven’t viewed any sort of social media – or media even – since Bridesmaids. The challenge for her is avoiding the gross out humor that is beneath her skill level but right in the wheelhouse of every person who thinks that the 4th of July is a holiday to celebrate a country called ‘Murica. Word around the campfire is that Paul Feig, who directed her in the Bridesmaids and The Heat, had created the perfect vehicle for McCarthy.
McCarthy is Susan Jenkins, a CIA agent who works behind the scenes with a partner agent, Bradley Fine (Law) who takes the field. A botched mission leads Fine into a trap of Rayna Bayanov (Byrne). Since all the identity of the other field agents have been compromised Jenkins volunteers to step into the role of reporting on Bayanov from a distance.
Rick Ford (Statham) is a hot head field agent who refuses to accept the circumstances. Going “rogue” despite the odds. He provides a humorous wild card that wreaks havoc with his prototypical role, as well as Jenkins plans. Susan has her own challenges. After being granted a series of absurd identities, she ends up as Bayanov’s bodyguard. This sounds ridiculous, but McCarthy’s gifts make it all work on a hilarious scale.
That this is the most effective use of McCarthy’s talent, there is no doubt. Feig has honed his gifts for the absurd and scaled back his use of fat clichés that hampered his earlier efforts with McCarthy. It is a delight to see her progress from desk jockey with certain physical gifts into a surprisingly adept and skillful agent. Byrne is equally entertaining as the antagonist. It is a role she should have embraced a while back because she is a natural. Serafinowicz also deserves recognition as the films 2nd most delightful surprise performance.
There is nothing in the way of genius in the plot or its twists. The execution is excellent, however. Feig is as talented a comedy director as there is now. Even so, watching this film makes me question his and McCarthy’s decision to take on the hulking mess of the Ghostbusters franchise which registered almost no interest before Ramis died and left Akroyd holding the “Will work for food” sign. They should take their talent and find a new Harold Ramis; a female one, preferably.
(**** out of *****)