20th Century Fox’s advertisements for the action-comedy Spy would lead you to believe that the movie is nothing more than another vehicle for Melissa McCarthy to bumble through pratfalls and a corny story. Luckily for moviegoers who have grown weary of McCarthy’s shtick, Spy is a hilarious, cleverly plotted spoof of the action subgenre, and one of the actress’ best works.
After delivering stellar work in Bridesmaids, The Heat and Tammy among other films, McCarthy has proven herself to be a comedy titan over the last few years, even though she does play similar characters in some of her comedies. Spy has the actress exercising her comic chops once again meanwhile breaking down barriers and proving her worth as an action heroine. Her character does endure a fair share of discomfitures, as expected with the actress’ brand of physical humor, but the role is balanced with athletic fight sequences and sharp wit and intellect.
While Spy is McCarthy’s show, the supporting cast should also be recognized for their commitment to the material. Rose Byrne and Jason Statham have several scenes of comic gold. Statham steals his scenes, subverting his usual no-nonsense acting style as a wild agent gone rogue. Byrne, as a conniving villainess, delivers another uproarious performance after her own scene-stealing turn in last year’s Neighbors.The idea at the core of Spy is simple enough. A heavyset analyst for the CIA, Susan Cooper, gets her shot to serve as an undercover agent when a whistleblower exposes the identities of every active spy in the bureau.
While this spoof undermines norms of the popular spy genre, it’s a solid addition to the canon at the same time. The movie is forward thinking with feminist undertones, but doesn’t make a big thing of it, offering blockbuster entertainment for all audiences. The filmmakers could have settled for a cliché plot and lazy gags to poke fun at the likes of James Bond, but instead they’ve concocted a globe-spanning ride packed with twists, turns and grand set pieces.
Anyone who complains about the excess of sequels and remakes in Hollywood should stop doing so until he or she sees the excellent original comedy that is Spy. Director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) again brings out the best in McCarthy and has set the star up for what could be her first franchise. I think there’s a lot more to explore with Ms. Cooper, a very fun and relatable individual. Plus it would be very tongue-in-cheek for a send-up of the franchise-dominated spy genre (see Mission: Impossible, Die Hard, and every superhero series) to get its own sequel. Susan Cooper is the type of superhero the 21st Century needs, and I will be counting down the days until Spy Harder hits theaters.