Monday, June 8, 2015
When director Paul Feig made his 2011 hit Bridesmaids, he seemingly found his comedy muse in Melissa McCarthy. Since that breakout role McCarthy has shined in other supporting roles in films like This is 40 and The Hangover part III, but in my humble opinion hadn't proved that she could carry a movie. I was disappointed in both Identity Thief and Tammy, so I wasn't sure what to expect from Feig and McCarthy's latest offering Spy.
The movie tells the tale of Susan Cooper, a talented CIA analyst who is forced into the field. I'll try to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, so won't go into why she has to do so. The rest of the film details her mission, and how this normally desk-bound agent responds to her first "real" mission. Feig, who also wrote the screenplay, makes a very wise decision to not rely on body humor for the jokes in this movie. We don't get any jokes about McCarthy being overweight, which was refreshing for me. The humor derives from her inexperience, and her interactions with other cast members. This role could have just as easily been played by Kristen Wiig or any other comedic actress.
From the beginning of her mission Agent Cooper is not portrayed as a bumbling idiot, but as a highly skilled and intelligent woman, who just hadn't been in the field yet. Again, I found this to be a refreshing direction. Cooper was never portrayed as a helpless woman relying on others to save her. McCarthy gives a strong comedic performance, and carries the story of the film well. She's been given a fun supporting cast to play with as well. Rose Byrne plays the catty super rich bitch very well, and Jude Law and Jason Statham have a lot of fun sending up the traditional James Bond-like super spy. Statham's performance was especially surprising for me. I hope to see him in more comedic roles in the future.
Spy showed me, for the first time, that McCarthy really can carry a movie if supplied with the right material. The question now is can she do so without Paul Feig writing and directing for her. *** ½*