Review: Paul Feig's 'Spy' is Frontrunner For Comedy of the Summer
by Jeremy Kirk
June 5, 2015
Let's start by making something very clear. Just because Melissa McCarthy is overweight does not make every joke in which she's involved an automatic "fat joke." Sure, the actress has been involved in some obesity-related humor over the course of her film career, but it's not the right attitude to inherently bring with you while watching one of her movies. Maybe it's the right attitude a Kevin James movie but not for Spy – McCarthy's latest – and a film that has comedy coming from all areas. It's an early favorite for the comedy event of the Summer thanks heavily to both McCarthy and the great hodgepodge of a cast with which she's working. At the very least, Spy has fewer "fat jokes" than even the trailer for Paul Blart 2.
Melissa McCarthy isn't even sinking to that normal, vulgar self she seems shoehorned into playing. In Spy, she's playing Susan Cooper, a naïve, rather sweet agent for the CIA, not the bang-bang-shoot-em-up kind of spy but the voice-on-the-other-end-of-the-earpiece giving assistance to the bang-bang-shoot-em-up kind of spy. Jude Law fills that role, playing the dashing and debonair super-spy with a slight allergy problem, Bradley Fine. Susan pines for Bradley and all his super-spy ways but only from a distance. That is until a briefcase nuke goes missing, all the agents' covers are blown, and the whole predicament leads to Rose Byrne's Rayna Boyanov, an arms dealer who has a score to settle with the agency. It's time for the unassuming Cooper to go undercover and probably fall down a lot in the process.
Yes, there are a lot of pratfalls in Spy, and the level of visual humor is off the charts. That's not where the humor in Spy begins and ends, though. Writer/director Paul Feig has not only helped launch McCarthy's film career with collaborations like Bridesmaids and The Heat, he's practically made his own name a successful brand in the Summer comedy field with those same works. The expectations that come with this team is met and surpassed in Spy. Like their two collaborations before, this film prides itself on going for the not-so-easy jokes, those unexpected lines, situations, or visuals that catch you off guard and keep you laughing well through two or three more jokes. Spy is definitely a film worth a rewatch for the velocity of jokes alone. A few, random jokes early in the film create a potential statement about the security agency and the vermin found within, but we'll leave the answers to that question with Feig.
The director has upped his Summer blockbuster game here, as well, keeping the action paced just well enough to never lose any momentum. The jokes aren't the only elements in Spy hitting you unexpectedly. With a ton of explosions, a bit of graphic violence – the humor isn't the only reason this film gained a hard R – and plenty of big-budget set pieces, you'd wonder if the film has much room for comedy. You won't be wondering that for long. As soon as Jason Statham's character, agent Rick Ford, starts talking about the "face-off machine" you'll wonder why you ever questioned this film's sense of humor in the first place.
Which brings us to the most important aspect to Spy, the key to making everything Feig has written down and put together work with the precision of a Swiss watch. The director is no stranger to dealing with ensemble casts, though there is some argument that Bridesmaids, hilarious as it is, short-changes its secondary cast. This isn't the case with Spy, where we laugh at Law, Byrne, and Statham likely more so than we do McCarthy. That's not putting the lead of this film down. She's more-or-less playing the straight-man here with the others filling in all those quirky, character roles that don't even seem realistic in parts.
Statham, the evening star of Spy's comic cast, is so successful with what he's going for here due to a beautiful combination of ridiculous anecdotes and sincerity of his character, a secret agent who, according to himself, has pulled off some amazing feats in his day. You kind of believe his wild claims, because you're convinced Ford believes them. Who's gonna question Jason Statham, anyway, right?
Byrne flawlessly oozes out her Bulgarian accent while pulling off a dynamite, elitist attitude. Law's agent is the epitome of the suave, super-spy. The rest of the cast is on equal footing: Allison Janney pulling off deadpan delivery with ease; Miranda Hart playing bubbly and adorable as Susan's desk mate; and Peter Serafinowicz doing some immaculate work with voice and reaction as an Italian agent who seems more interested in bedding Susan than aiding her in the mission. All of them blend together perfectly, something that isn't expected to look at the jumbled listing of names.
That probably answers the question of what Paul Feig is best at when it comes to his films. He has an effortless way of bringing a hugely varied cast together in a comedy and makes them all feel natural to the same world. McCarthy's film career was born into Feig's eccentric, movie world, and she seems more comfortable in front of his camera each time out. With Spy, McCarthy is at her most natural, Feig is at his most gifted, and everyone else listed in that cast is just downright hilarious, much like the movie, itself.