Shaken and stirred
Spy is yet another spoof of the James Bond spy movie genre, and it’s a good one thanks to the presence of Melissa McCarthy. It doesn’t hurt that the film is written and directed by Paul Feig, who gave her an Oscar-nominated role in Bridesmaids. The team followed up that piece of comic brilliance with the fun, police-buddy comedy The Heat.
Now comes Spy, where McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a CIA agent chained to a desk in service of her partner in the field, Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Circumstances call for Susan to go into the field for the first time, and she must leave her bat-infested CIA basement behind.
While Susan is hoping for a cool spy name and bitching spy gadgets, her commander (an acerbic Allison Janney) insists upon cat-lady cover identities and gadgets disguised in rape whistles and hemorrhoid wipes.
In the field, she must do battle with an evil arms trader Rayna (deliciously nasty Rose Byrne) while contending with rogue agent Rick Ford (a surprisingly hilarious Jason Statham) who doesn’t believe she is up to the task. The mission takes her all over the world to locales like Rome and Paris, while requiring her to sport some pretty embarrassing grandma wigs.
One of the film’s great running gags is how relatively unattractive the whole spy racket is. While James Bond gets to race around in an Aston Martin, Susan does her chasing on a clumsy scooter. While Bond had the best of hotel accommodations, Susan is put up in a very “murdery” hotel full of rats.
And, yes, while the CIA basement has awesome computers and high tech gadgets, it’s infested with bats and rodents who shit on birthday cakes. Another great running gag would be that Susan, despite her years sitting behind a desk, turns out to be quite the badass in a fight. Some of the best scenes in the movie involve her in impressive knife and gun fights.
For all of her talents as a physical comedienne, McCarthy’s true strengths lie in her ability to shoot off rapid-fire insults at unsuspecting victims. She and Byrne have a couple of verbal square-offs in this film where you have to believe the two actresses were given permission to just go at it and see what happens. Man, you don’t want to face off with McCarthy in an insult contest. The deck is stacked against you.
Speaking of “face off,” Statham’s character establishes his quick-mouthed, boneheaded and extremely funny character with his belief that the CIA has a face-off machine like the one used in the classic Travolta-Cage showdown. Statham has never really been given a chance to show his comedic chops before. Not only does he rise to the occasion, but he demonstrates that perhaps his career has been going in the wrong direction from the very beginning. Get this man into more comedies!
Next up for the Feig and McCarthy combo is Ghostbusters, featuring a female roster replacing the likes of Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Bill Murray. Fellow Bridesmaids alumnus Kristen Wiig is in the fold, and the closer we get to this, the more I get excited that Bill Murray passed, and the ladies are going to get their shot. There’s a lot of comedic talent already in the cast, which also includes Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Leslie Jones from Saturday Night Live.
I still think the best Melissa McCarthy movie moment is her outtake at the end of Judd Apatow’s This is 40, but there’s no doubt Feig gets the best entire film performances out of the golden lady. Spy gets credit for letting her show off her entire comedic arsenal rather than just having her fall down a lot.