Nutshell: a goofy spy spoof that hits all the bases. Fans of Bond should enjoy the genre riffs, while comedy junkies will get more than their fair share of laughs. As with her CIA alter ego Susan Cooper, Melissa McCarthy is a force to be reckoned with. Grade: A
Bradley Fine (Jude Law) is a perfect CIA agent. Perfect hair, perfect suit, perfect skills. But when a case takes an unexpected turn, his handler Susan Cooper (McCarthy) becomes a field operative. The only problem? Nobody seems to think Susan can handle the job. Including Susan.
What’s great about Spy is this basic storyline could have easily been used as a “real spy” movie. That writer/director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) took this story and then fleshed out a comedic plotline is genius. He gathered up all the usual plot suspects — international travel, double-crosses, car chases, high stakes intrigue in lavish settings — and simply let the story unspool as if real people rather than picture-perfect spy genre characters were in the mix. The result is a whole lot off screw-ups and plenty of tactless honesty, instead of having exactly the correct smooth line every time. And it’s a complete hoot.
As with Mad Max: Fury Road, the ladies do the heavy lifting in this story. Women play the lead role (McCarthy), lead villain (Rose Byrne, as Bulgarian baddie Rayna Boyanov), indispensable sidekick (Miranda Hart as CIA analyst Nancy), and Big Boss (Allison Janney as CIA Chief Elaine Crocker). It works beautifully, and never once did it feel staged or played for An Important Empowerment Message (even though it totally is one.) With Feig’s work here, I’m now super stoked for his all-female lead Ghostbusters.
My Firefly/V/Gotham fave Morena Baccarin has a brief role as Alpha-agent Karen Walker, and the scene where Karen is in a bar doing the usual Bond-esque things — while comparatively plain Susan and Nancy watch — is not only funny, it’s a dig at what society deems worthy. There are little jabs at societal norms throughout the film; Susan’s covers are always the stereotypical forever alone, cat addicted women with bad hair and worse fashion choices. The “Q” of the film — played by MADtv’s Michael McDonald with his usual deadpan flair — gives her gadgets that are more embarrassing than chic. Spies are given top-quality in all things, and their at-home analysts are stationed in a bat and rat infested basement (“there’s a mouse on my tit”).
There’s a ton of physical humor, and nobody is safe; Rose Byrne does a particularly good job of balancing her Natasha Fatale-esque baddie with a series of character demeaning pratfalls. So does Jason Statham, whose super-spy Rick Ford is obviously a riff on his usual high octane, adrenaline junkie characters. And if that quote in the last paragraph didn’t tip you off, there’s plenty of blue here too. This is definitely an R-rated film, from dick pics (yep) to blood to all the racy jokes and language. I laughed my ass off, as did the rest of the theater, but bear that in mind if you plan on taking a timid friend out with you.
I’d mentioned genius earlier. Y’know what else is genius? The soundtrack. Theodore Shapiro’s original score, along with a techno, R&B heavy soundtrack, adds to the cool factor and pumps the adrenaline. It’s also just quirky enough to keep things light and comedic, rather than balls-out thriller. It’s a perfect accompaniment to the action onscreen.
Oh, and BTW, musician 50 Cent has a small but fun role as himself in the film. He plays on his persona and managed to stay true to himself while getting some jokes in. A star cameo that’s integral to the plot but doesn’t overwhelm it? Just another thing Spy gets right.