In 2011, director Paul Feig changed the landscape for female-centric comedies with the smash hit Bridesmaids. Sticking with his muse in Melissa McCarthy, Feig now turns his attention to the James Bond trademarked secret-agent genre with Spy.
McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a timid and desk-bound CIA agent who remotely directs her suave field counterpart, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), from a dingy basement away from the action. Their heightened and complementing skills make them a great team, but when Fine is incapacitated Cooper is forced to step away from the desk and take on active duty, donning a variety of unflattering disguises to foil a European plot involving a femme fatale and a suitcase nuke.
Spoof spy comedies are not a new concept by any means, with 1984’s Top Secret and the Austin Powers franchise leading the genre, reigning over the god-awful Johnny English series that we’d all rather forget. True to these genre roots, Spy is not afraid to indulge in multiple counts of slapstick (the pinnacle involving a scooter pursuit into heavy roadworks) but for the most part the action is stylish and rooted in the quick and sharp “post-Brosnan Bond” reality. Speaking of Bond, the comparisons aren’t subtle and don’t pretend to be, from the credits sequence homage that’s bang on the money through to the snarky and witty gadget quartermaster. It’s even possible that Bradley Fine isn’t too far away from what we could have had as 007, if Jude Law had beaten Daniel Craig to the role and the series hadn’t taken its grittier turn.
There’s no doubt that Spy’s secret weapon is its casting. Rose Byrne adds to her comedic repertoire as the insulting villain, West Wing alumni Alison Janney assumes the semi serious role of M, while Miranda Hart and Peter Serafinowicz take on supporting roles as the best friend and sleazy accomplice respectively. There is, however, a wildcard in the deck in the form of Jason Statham, who hasn’t before utilised his broad comedy chops this heavily, although his performances Snatch and Crank are evidence that there was a funny man hiding under his tough surface, ready to emerge. And emerge he has, full-throttle and ‘cranked’ up to 11. A scene where ‘The Stath’ reels off his heroic accomplishments is arguably the highlight of the entire movie, and at times you’ll only be able to hear his hilarious lines as your eyes will be too flooded with tears to be able to see them grunted out.
While Statham is a flawless addition, most viewers of Spy are likely to be Melissa McCarthy fans and if you are then you’re unlikely to be disappointed. She has a mastery of comic timing and impeccable delivery, in addition to her undeniable charm can only be compared to Chris Pratt, the current King of the Box Office.
On the whole, Spy has its flaws but they don’t overly detract from the finished article. Incredibly for a spy comedy, the plot can be confusing at times and I was occasionally unsure whether an essential character was good or bad. The third act wasn’t on par with the rest of the movie’s momentum and the running time is excessive, as is becoming increasingly normal in new releases. All of Feig’s directorial efforts run at around 2 hours and for a comedy that can be an extremely long period of time. Considering that Judd Apatow appears to have the same problem, albeit with much more serious symptoms, maybe it is simply that writer-directors are too close to their own material to trim the fat.
In a Nutshell
The mission is a success thanks to great fieldwork from McCarthy, Byrne and Statham; however logistical issues from Langley result in collateral damage.
★ ★ ★
Written by Adam Yates