| June 4, 2015

Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) is back with a new espionage comedy about an overweight support agent at the CIA (Melissa McCarthy; Bridesmaids, The Heat) forced into the field when the identities of all the top secret agents are compromised by a terrorist organization led by Rayna Boynaov (Rose Byrne; Bridesmaids).  What follows is a fairly standard spy movie homage, complete with twists, turns, intrigue, beautiful women, dapper men, and gadgets galore, but all with Feig’s distinct brand of comedy energizing the movie start to finish.  Well, almost start; the first laugh comes a few minutes into Agent Bradley Fine’s (Jude Law; Dom Hemingway) infiltration into a terrorist’s mansion, and happens so fast that the audience doesn’t have much time to even react to it.  It works well, and launches us into a movie that is absolutely full of laugh out loud moments.

I really enjoyed Feig’s last movie, The Heat, as it was a well constructed buddy cop movie that moved cohesively from scene to scene and developed the two main characters with consistency and realism.  Despite the amazingly effective comedy of Spy, it unfortunately felt more like Bridesmaids to me, which I know is very popular and if you liked it you probably won’t be disappointed by this.  My issue with Bridesmaids was that it felt like a string of sketches strung together for the sole purpose of getting laughs.  The characters, particularly the lead played by Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), changed from scene to scene to facilitate the humor rather than facilitating their own development.  Spy isn’t quite as big an offender in this respect, but it’s definitely there.  McCarthy’s abilities as a spy change dramatically from scene to scene.  In one scene we’ll see her savagely neutralizing a room full of henchmen and in another she can barely operate a scooter.  Hilarious!

I’m a huge fan of Melissa McCarthy’s work and think she’s one of the funniest actors working today.  This role was written for her.  It plays to her particular skill set, her willingness to poke fun at her own appearance, and allows her to show off a more emotionally charged side.  One day, she’s going to completely hit the brakes and do a Paul Thomas Anderson drama and win all the awards.

Spy does a good job of parodying espionage thrillers like the James Bond franchise by integrating sight gags with crisp fight choreography, giving McCarthy’s character cool gadgets disguised as embarrassing hygiene items, and establishing villains who don’t seem to really have a plan other than mass death and destruction.  It all holds together pretty well, but Feig’s willingness to sacrifice character for a joke will continue to make me skeptical of anything he puts out – including the new “all female” reboot of Ghostbusters, which I have strong feelings about, but don’t want to get into it here.  I imagine a review of that film will be in order when it’s released.

Easily my favorite part of Spy is Jason Statham, who never does comedy (absurdity, maybe, but not Feig-type comedy).  Here, he plays Agent Rick Ford, a rogue who doesn’t play by the rules and it makes him incredibly dangerous to himself and the other agents in the field.  Basically, Statham is playing a satirical version of himself and the roles he tends to embody.  He’s constantly demoralizing McCarthy’s character while simultaneously bragging about all the badass stuff he’s done in his career.  These brags get more and more ridiculous, with Statham’s stone cold delivery amplifying the hilarity.  I could see them possibly doing sequels to this one, and I’ll be right there for every single one as long as Rick Ford is around.

I’d like to thank the Alamo Drafthouse for hosting this special free preview screening for its Victory members.  I’ve gotten to see a few things I might have otherwise missed out on thanks to them and the amazing things they do for their customers.

Spy is in theaters everywhere on June 5.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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