Monday, June 8, 2015

[Review] Spy

Melissa McCarthy is a great comedic talent, and lately she's fallen into a few one dimensional caricature roles in really bad movies *cough* Tammy. Then came the better St. Vincent where she was able to display depth and emotion but still went underutilized without having much to do. And now, thankfully, we have the big comedy Spy, which finally has some McWorthy material.

Susan (McCarthy) works for the CIA behind a desk, speaking commands into the earpiece of her cool secret agent partner (and crush) played by Jude Law (oh, to be a fly on the wall when the filmmakers told Jude Law he needed to wear a hairpiece). Anyway, Susan's a bit of a klutz and she belittles herself around her co-workers. But after one of Jude Law's missions goes awry, Susan is called upon. We learn that she is well-trained, but has no experience out in the field. When she's assigned to gather information about a powerful criminal organization, she gets pulled deeper into the mission than anyone intended. A hilariously angry Jason Statham joins the team, and the two get into each other's way more than anything.

Early on, while funny, Spy is awkward and seems more sitcom-like, but the humor and plot ratchets way up during the later half of the film, especially when Susan is forced to interact with one of the key players in the crime scheme (played by a stellar Rose Byrne). The script is full of goofy dialogue & slapstick, and it isn't too proud to delve into vomit and poop humor. And hearing McCarthy and Byrne hurl foul-mouthed, demoralizing insults at each other is truly a thing of beauty. Even though the film places comedy first, the story is actually a pretty clever spy tale--creating a lot of identity toss-ups and questions of who is setting up whom. There's also a light touch of self-esteem and self-worth transformations regarding McCarthy's character.

Given the CIA nature of the film, Melissa McCarthy wears many different faces throughout the performance, and she definitely carries the film, proving to be a great lead. Rose Byrne is also a standout. Her character is generally a villain who is supposed to be despicable, but she puts so much impressive attitude and relentless snark into it that the character actually becomes really endearing. It's also amusing to see Jason Statham hoisted into a role where he isn't necessarily the one saving the day. There's some entertaining turns from Allison Janney, Miranda Hart, Peter Serafinowicz, and a cameo that I won't reveal.

A couple of missed opportunities crop up along the way, and Spy isn't quite as gut-bursting as the recent 21 Jump Street films, but it belongs in the same league, and it's sure a hell of a lot better than The Interview. McCarthy & Byrne's performances alone are more than worth the price of admission.


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