Director : Paul Feig
Writer: Paul Feig
When you're choosing your Friday or Saturday night movie, there always seems to be more risk when it's a comedy. While a drama may make you think and a thriller can put you on the edge of your seat, a comedy actually asks you to participate. If you don't laugh, the movie doesn't work. But when you have Paul Feig at the helm and Melissa McCarthy starring, that pressure is off. You're in safe hands.
In Spy, McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst who works with field operative Bradley Fine (Jude Law, confirming he would have been a terrible Bond if anyone had ever wondered). She's his eye in the sky and voice in his ear, guiding him through missions and regularly saving his life. For Susan though, her competence at work does not extend to her personal life where she presents as lonely and unfulfilled. When a list of the real identities of all field agents is leaked to the bad guys, she has the opportunity to step out of the shadows.
While Spy hits many of the standard spy movie tropes, you couldn't call it a straight spoof. It is obviously playing for laughs (and often goes for the obvious laughs), but with it's complicated action sequences and character development, it's much more True Lies than Flying High. And Feig plays it smart by having Susan as a bad-ass. She may look a soft touch but can tangle when she needs to.
The intentions of the film are shown most clearly in the casino scene. There's a very Bondish game of poker happening in the high roller room, but not only is Susan barred from taking a seat at the table, she's escorted from the room completely and has to continue her work from the fringes. That she prevails anyway seems to be the allegory the film is shooting for. Even if the front door might not be open, t's amazing what you can learn from peeking in the window.
Writer/ Director Feig, a Freaks and Geeks alumi, must know a thing or two about being an outsider. He reportedly made this film "because they would never let me make a real Bond movie" and subverting the movie making norms has become the though line of his career. In Spy, he not only has a female protagonist, but the Big Baddie is a lady (Byrne with a East European accent ) and so is the sidekick ( a refreshingly un-cinematic Miranda Hart). When you combine Spy with The Heat, Bridesmaids and the upcoming Ghostbusters remake (with girls wearing the proton packs this time), it's safe to assume that this is not an accident.
Regardless of the subtext and gender agenda's, this is a comedy and the success of the movie depends on whether or not it's funny. Short answer : McCarthy kills it. She is the go- to plus size performer, combining the pathos of John Candy with the physicality of Chris Farley and the sheer phunny of both. She is at the top of her game and finds laughs in almost every line. In this she is ably supported by Miranda Hart, and Jason Statham goes from jarring in his first two scenes to hilarious the more often he turns up. With a more engaging title this could have been the huge movie it deserved to be.