“If you’ve been reading lately, you know I’ve been a bit more sensitive about the portrayal of women on film and the inequality in the industry. While I love my guy movies, I am always happy to see a big female led flick, and when that female is Melissa McCarthy, I am ecstatic. There’s few women who are given many opportunities to lead a film, much less a big summer tent pole, and the fact that she’s been entrusted with so many in recent years is beyond wonderful.
Teaming up once again with Bridesmaids and The Heat director, Paul Feig, McCarthy stars as Susan Cooper, CIA agent who works behind the scenes, guiding her James Bond-esque super spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law) thru a myriad of, um, spy stuff. When a mission goes south and all known agents are compromised, Susan steps up to head into the field and take down a baddie trying to sell nuclear weapons.
The idea is that this is a parody of a James Bond film, without going the full parody route. A little less on the nose than Austin Powers, and more of an actual spy film that happens to be funny. Feig has been quoted as saying that he wrote this film because he thought it’d be the closest he’d ever get to directing Bond. He also said he was intrigued by the idea of having a trio of women leading the film: McCarthy’s Cooper as the protagonist, Miranda Hart’s Nancy as the sidekick, and Rose Byrne’s Rayna as the villain.
Something that I really really loved and appreciated about the homage over parody approach is that the humor didn’t come from our sudden spy bumbling around. She may have been a little out of practice and a little fish out of water, but she knew exactly what she was doing. She proved above all else how smart and adaptable she was to situations. The comedy (on her end) came more out of the unfamiliarity of the field and not out of her own ineptitude.
The rest of the cast helped bring the funny as well. Some deadpan humor from Allison Janney, some just over the top enough villain-y from the aforementioned Byrne (who we’ve learned from films like Neighbors and Bridesmaids can be quite funny), and some character work from Bobby Cannavale. However, the true secret humor weapon was Jason Statham.
Yes, the same Jason Statham whose action star chops I have praised countless times (including the most recent Fast and Furious installment). Turns out, the dude is quite funny. Jimmy Fallon was apparently aware of this, but few others were. Even I’d forgotten that some of the films where he got his start were comedy infused Guy Ritchie films, (Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smokin’ Barrels). In Spy, he plays Agent Ford, another top CIA agent. Although while Jude Law’s spy was your suave Bond, Ford is a little more Ethan Hunt maybe? Best analogy I can come up with, but I mean to say that he’s rougher around the edges. He gets stuff done with some extremely physical stunts and general bad ass-ery. So how does that make him funny? His recurring gag is how he rattles off lists of the more and more impossible feats he’s performed on missions. That and some unexpected moments where his strategy is a bit less conventional is all I’ll say. Seriously though, the man is funny. Even Melissa McCarthy was saying that Statham was the one actor who could make her break character laughing the most consistently and constantly.
Now, if I’m being completely honest, not all of the film worked for me. Every single idea behind it and all the moving pieces I’ve described were solid, but something didn’t quite connect (story issues perhaps) and made some of it drag on. Still, I’m more than happy that this film exists for everything that it is. Who knows, there’s definitely some franchise potential in here, and I for one would love to see that happen!
Spy – \m/ \m/ \m/”