Spy July 4, 2015
Melissa McCarthy has arguably been America’s finest screen comedienne ever since she knocked us all out with her all-hands-on-deck supporting performance in 2011’s Bridesmaids. Neither a Lucy nor a Rosalind, McCarthy has always gone down and dirty, packing her yearly schedule with comedy parts built around her foul mouthed persona. But after a few too many misses, such as inexplicably high-grossing Identity Thief or critical disaster Tammy, one has begun to associate McCarthy with a wig and a greasy part, embodying a character better equipped for a Saturday Night Live skit than a full length movie.
Finally, we have a vehicle worthy of her talents: Spy is the best comedy of the year. One shouldn’t be saying such things until December, I know, but I doubt I’ll find another romp as packed with belly laughs as this one. I haven’t laughed this hard, or this uninterruptedly, for months. This is a comedy worth celebrating.
In Spy, McCarthy portrays Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst who spends her days acting as the well-trained ear to 007-esque field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). She’s been stuck at her desk for years, aiding him on each and every mission — it’s only inevitable that she, a lonely heart who hasn’t been in a relationship for a while — fall for his charming ways. But after an incident leaves him out of the picture, Susan realizes that she would make for a good spy: she is knowledgeable when it comes to the field and knows quite a bit of self defense.
Reluctantly, her supervisor (Allison Janney) agrees to her suggestion, sending her to Paris to thwart a terrorism plot involving powerful criminals Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale) and Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne). Constantly interrupting the mission is Rick Ford (Jason Statham), a rogue agent who lets his ego get in the way of successful plotting. Though initially nervous, Susan finds herself thrilled by her new job — she might even be, dare she say it, better than Fine.
Paul Feig, the man behind Bridesmaids and The Heat, mixes action and comedy with such skill that we almost forget that seeing McCarthy convincingly fist fight with a baddie should seem strange — but McCarthy, thanks to a terrific comedic performance and Feig’s screenplay, is never anything less than a wrecking ball of laughs. She can sell a barbed insult as well as she can make the most of her initially mousy façade — McCarthy is one of the greatest comedy actors of the 2010s. It’s easy to forget that fact when she heads bombs, but when films like Spy come along, we begin to realize just how wrong we were to ever underestimate her.
For once, though, McCarthy is not the only actor providing the majority of our abdominal pain. The responsibility is shared by a fantastic, sometimes surprisingly so, ensemble: Byrne, an under-appreciated straight woman, murders her role as the big-haired villainess; Miranda Hart, as McCarthy’s ear, is a fine combination of bumbling and shrill; Janney’s no-nonsense portrayal provides for some of the most hard-hitting laughs in the film. But best is, shockingly, Statham, who lampoons his image so hilariously one can only wonder what’s been keeping him out of the comedy world all these years.
I loved Spy. I don’t go to the theaters often — money, you see, is too sacred to constantly spend on entertainment — but I haven’t had this much fun in the cinema chair for what feels like years. Sometimes, it’s good to laugh until you cry; sometimes, it’s good to want to turn around and see the movie all over again. A