Film Review: Spy

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Spy Plot Summary:

A lowly CIA computer analyst (Melissa McCarthy) is given a chance to go in the field when all the agency’s top agents are compromised.  While taking on embarrassing undercover identities , Susan’s simple track and report mission turns into a true spy caper as she chases down a deadly killer (Rose Byrne) who plans to facilitate a sale of a nuclear bomb to a lethal terrorist (Bobby Cannavale).

I’ve always said that if given the right project, Melissa McCarthy can be a comedic force.  Spy is that project.  I may be the only person in America who hates Bridesmaids, but I have to eat some crow on director Paul Feig.  Unlike so many other comedic talents in Hollywood today, Paul Feig can achieve the impossible task of making people laugh consistently for almost two hours.  I have some complaints, but this is one hilarious romp that had the entire theater cracking up from beginning to end, but it all stems from the star, Melissa McCarthy.

Photo credit: Larry Horricks - © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox
Photo credit: Larry Horricks – © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox

McCarthy is simply in her element here. She’s landing jokes at a success rate higher than Miguel Cabrera’s batting average. I also appreciate that there was really only one pratfall gag.  She gets on a scooter and it falls over. Haha, whoopty doo.  But other than that, it’s all funny dialogue and sharp delivery.  She abuses the f-word quite a bit, but whatever, it works.  I’m sure there was also a lot of improvisation on her part.  She is totally let loose.  Aside from the line delivery, her physical comedy also worked very well.  It wasn’t just the typical “I’m big and falling over” type crap.  There was a precision to every thing she did.  The character of Susan Cooper herself was also well written.  McCarthy was able to go from goodie two shoes computer analyst to fierce angry spy in the blink of an eye, and the script actually explains this pretty well, as it doesn’t just go for cheap laughs.  Sure, there’s a couple lay up jokes like Melissa McCarthy wearing a shirt with a giant cat on it, but the comedy derives from the character.  McCarthy is hilarious.

While McCarthy steals the show, the supporting cast elevated this film even more.  I thought Rose Byrne was vastly overrated in Neighbors, but she shows in Spy that if given a good script, she can be really funny.  Byrne plays both sexy and buffoonish, and it’s pretty damn funny.  She really shines in the second half.  Peter Serafinowicz is also hilarious as Aldo, this reckless agent who constantly hits on Susan.  He’s a one note character, but it works.  Jude Law doesn’t have a huge role, but he’s actually funnier than I thought.  Other than McCarthy, this was a real showcase for Miranda Hart, who plays Susan’s best friend/sidekick.  She’s that outlandish/Stifler-esque breakout character who gets really goofy.  She straddles the line, but I’d be lying if I said she didn’t make me laugh.  The funniest character other than McCarthy though was Allison Janney.  You only get her in doses, but she’s hilarious.  Janney deserves more film roles.  There’s one other noteworthy character I haven’t touched on yet, and this is where I’m going to get controversial.

Photo credit: Larry Horricks - © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox
Photo credit: Larry Horricks – © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox

I’ve made no secret in previous reviews that I’m no fan of Jason Statham.  I don’t get it.  People keep touting his action charisma, yet I find him no more appealing than Sam Worthington.  Okay, maybe that’s going to far, but you get the picture.  I’m clearly not alone, as his movies don’t exactly light up the box office, but people seem to like him.  I get what Paul Feig is trying to do here.  Let’s take this ultra testosterone action star and make him an over zealous fool.  Statham plays agent Rick Ford who’s supposed to be the bad ass of all bad asses, yet he’s constantly screwing up.  Many will disagree with my opinion on Statham’s performance, but I’m sorry, he’s not funny.  He gets this monologue where he spouts off all these cartoonish spy accidents.  He’s trying so hard to make it funny, but it’s painful to watch.  Even though the audience was laughing, it sounded fake, like they felt bad for him.  For the first half of the film, they try and make McCarthy and Statham a comedic duo, but McCarthy is running circles around him.  Thankfully the second half is more the McCarthy/Byrne show.  You could have gotten so many other actors to make that material funny, it’s a damn shame.  I’m sorry, I’m just never going to like this guy, whether it be action or comedy.

Even though there were a couple gags that got to Paul Feig, including a completely unnecessary dick joke (come on, your movie is better than this), and a totally worthless 50 Cent cameo, he directed one hell of a comedy.  Not only did it play off spy movie clichés, but the action scenes were actually filmed really well, proving you don’t always need huge spectacle to have good action.  I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but watching Spy actually gives me hope for his Ghostbusters take.  I’m not completely diving into the pool yet, but I’m dipping my feet in the water.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.
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Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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