After her terrific breakout role in 2011’s Bridesmaids, the filmography of Melissa McCarthy has nagged at me in one significant way. While her character in Bridesmaids was hilariously rough around the edges, what stood out was her innate likability. It’s a trait that was lacking in varying degrees in all her follow up work – Identity Thief, The Heat, and Tammy.
This situation is rectified in Spy, which teams McCarthy up for the third time with director Paul Feig after Bridesmaids and The Heat (they’ll collabo again next summer in the Ghostbusters reboot). Spy finds McCarthy playing more to her strengths and it’s a welcome sight. Yet it doesn’t totally mask that this effort is a fairly generic 007 genre spoof where the laughs are hit or miss.
McCarthy is Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst whose job consists mostly of assisting debonair agent Bradley Fine (a game Jude Law) by talking in his earpiece and helping him out of international intrigue jams. She’s head over heels for her assigned agent as well, which leads to a humorous fancy dinner scene with him where she’s a bit out of her element. Circumstances soon lead to Susan becoming a field agent responsible for tracking Rayna (Rose Byrne), who’s in possession of a nuke. Our newly minted spy must also work with rough and tumble agent Ford (Jason Statham, showcasing real comedic chops) who is far worse at his profession than he believes. His anecdotes about previous missions provide some of the larger laughs, such as when he had to reattach his arm with his other arm.
Spy follows the playbook of Bond spoof to a tee – various exotic locations, big and complicated action sequences, etc… McCarthy’s character, who gets to don various disguises, gives the actress the most she’s had to work with in a bit. The pic fits the bill as a lazy afternoon couch viewing experience and not much more.
One problem is that Feig has learned one unenviable trait from former colleague Judd Apatow. His movies are about 20 minutes too long and Spy’s premise doesn’t deserve the padded two hour running time. There is filler mixed with genuinely solid set pieces. Flaws aside, it’s nice to see McCarthy shine in a manner she’s not been afforded since her Oscar nomination for her standout part four years ago. I hope her material continues to improve.
**1/2 (out of four)