Alex Reviews Spy - A Hilarious Secret Agent Spoof (If You Can Ignore Melissa McCarthy)

Jason Statham's the best thing in it. Seriously.

Rating: ˜…˜…˜… Eventually Hollywood's going to stop trying to make Melissa McCarthy happen. Oh, I can see why people generally like her - she's a confident actress who's not above mocking herself - but I've never actually found her funny. There's such an over-reliance on cracking jokes about her weight (or simply that she's a woman) that mean her entire filmography seems a little desperate. It's now getting to the point where people should start considering that she might just not be leading lady material. Bridesmaids was a solid breakout, but since then she's had a string of duds. Identity Thief, The Heat Tammy; each one was spouted as a big deal in the pre-release jumbo, but arrived as flat comedies nobody really wanted to see. If McCarthy really was a big deal, she certainly wasn€™t showing it. And, sadly, I'm still yet to see anything to convince me to the contrary - while I quite enjoyed Spy, the Gilmore Girls€™ actress€™ latest effort, it was only in spite of its leading lady. McCarthy plays Susan, a CIA €˜agent€™ who provides in-mission intel to field operatives from an office basement. When all active personnel are made known to an evil villainess, she has to step up and go into the field. And, because this is McCarthy, that means tumbles and stammering, all delivered with a slice of self-deprecation. She does it all as you expect - half socially awkward dateless-wonder, half angry bad-ass - which gets the odd chuckle, but nothing to stop her feeling like a passenger in her own film. You see, Spy isn€™t just another McCarthy movie, but also a big budget spy parody starring a slew of A-List actors who normally skew towards much serious roles delivering awkward lines with a totally straight-face. Rose Byrne as an aristocratic supervillain with a hint of spoilt brat syndrome; Jude Law as the typically suave Bond-type (albeit with an American accent); Bobby Cannavale as a dashing middle man; Peter Serafinowicz as a touchy-feely Italian lothario: they'd all fit in a regular secret agent movie (OK, maybe not Serafinowicz) and are the real reason to see the film, far outshining its star.
The highlight is Jason Statham. His Rick Ford is a perfect comedic creation, a send-up of the unstoppable super spy as an arrogant, narcissistic (and this is quoting the man himself) twot. Ford is so brutishly self-confident and Statham plays it with such unwavering sincerity it's hard not to crack up when he simply appears on screen. This whole side of the film seems at odds with McCarthy€™s presence. Spy has all the makings of a great Bond spoof, but is saddled with a need to always keep the focus on its star (who is only at her best when dealing with the more dramatic actors stretching their comedic muscles). The initial idea of researchers feeding information through an ear-piece, which smartly explains how super spies are so effective, could have been the basis for a movie in itself, but with a need for McCarthy to fall over/look frumpy/roll her eyes it (and other cool plot points) never gets used to its full potential. McCarthy isn€™t the worst thing in the film though, not by a long shot. For reasons that will remain a mystery, Miranda Hart pops up as Miranda Hart (the cast list says her character€™s name is Nancy, but for all intents and purposes this is the same giddy, insufferable person from her dire self-titled sitcom). Well, I say €œpops up€ - she actually plays a rather major role as Susan€™s best friend-cum-advisor, appearing almost as much as Statham, but eliciting a groan instead of a cheer each time. Hart€™s schtick was tired on TV and, while her physical €˜comedy€™ (read: falling over) is toned down, she€™s still the same klutz here. At least her most insufferable moment from the trailer - an obvious, flustered pratfall - is cut from the finished film.
While for McCarthy this is business as usual, for director Paul Feig this marks a distinct step up. He and his star's previous efforts have felt like they were in the uncanny valley of feminism - seemingly ticking all the boxes for gender equality but trying much too hard and thus coming across a little disingenuous - so it's a relief here to see the pair deliver a film that its own thing, through a lack of forcefulness fighting a stronger case than their previous collaborations. Feig directs the film like it's a spy thriller and, for the most part, pulls it off - all wide shots and classy set design. The action is rather pedestrian (and in her scenes it's clearly not McCarthy), but, putting that aside, this promises great things for his in-development female Ghostbusters (typically starring McCarthy). Where the director lets himself down is in the script. The standard Bond mission itself is saved by all the humorous commentary, but in the character area it€™s a little less clear. The final scene is clearly trying to pay off various relationships between the characters, but at each beat you find yourself stretching to think of moments where these relationships were actually were set up. It's only further proof this idea and core actors could have been transferred away from the forced McCarthy story without hurting the film. Spy is neither funnier, smarter or more exciting than Kingsman: The Secret Service, which impressed a lot earlier this year and is just now hitting DVD. But it€™s still a bit of fun that will make you properly laugh at least a few times - pretty much an average summer comedy then. What did you make of Spy? Share your thoughts down in the comments.
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Film Editor (2014-2016). Loves The Usual Suspects. Hates Transformers 2. Everything else lies somewhere in the middle. Once met the Chuckle Brothers.

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