Magazine article Screen International

'Spy': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Spy': Review

Article excerpt

Dir/scr: Paul Feig. US. 2015. 115mins

Fans of Melissa McCarthy who have cheered her big-screen ascension but lamented the one-note characters which helped fuel her rise can rejoice: With Spy, the very charming, deeply lovable, potently funny actress finally gets a role worthy of her talent. A goofy spoof of spy movies that also works rather well as a straight-up action-comedy, the latest from writer-director Paul Feig (who previously teamed with McCarthy on Bridesmaids and The Heat) may, admittedly, be a bit overstuffed with plot and set pieces. Nonetheless, this is a generous, consistently pleasurable comedy that finds its star leaving behind the oafish, obnoxious portrayals that marked her forgettable broad comedies like Identity Thief.

Spy is plenty of cheery fun, much of the joy coming from watching McCarthy in a blockbuster comedy for once not just be funny but also incredibly charismatic, vulnerable and sexy

Premiering at South By Southwest, Spy is scheduled to be released in some territories in late May before hitting the US and UK on June 5. Last year's Tammy ($100m worldwide) didn't perform as well as previous McCarthy vehicles Identity Thief ($174m) and The Heat ($230m), but Spy's clear commercial hook -- combined with an ensemble that includes Brits Jason Statham, Jude Law and Miranda Hart -- should help bring in audiences across the globe. Those partial to McCarthy's loud-and-crude shtick may be disappointed that she plays a much more normal person in Spy, but the betting is that favourable reviews and good word-of-mouth will propel this crowd-pleaser to strong summer business.

McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a bright, mousy CIA desk agent who serves as dashing fellow agent Fine's (Law) eyes and ears as he executes dangerous undercover missions in the field. After Fine is murdered by Rayna (Rose Byrne), a mysterious Bulgarian beauty who has gotten her hands on a nuclear weapon, Susan volunteers to continue the mission, arguing that because Rayna has intelligence on the CIA's top agents, the government needs to send in someone with no track record.

With Bridesmaids and The Heat, Feig has directed two of the biggest comedy hits of the last several years, in the process helping to shatter a preposterous industry impression that audiences wouldn't turn out for funny female-driven movies. Writing as well as directing Spy, Feig again populates his film with hysterical women --beyond McCarthy and Byrne, there's also Allison Janney as Susan's boss and Hart as Susan's dryly amusing colleague -- but two other noticeable attributes also elevate the movie significantly.

The first is that, as opposed to a straightforward sendup of a particular genre -- which limited the buddy-cop comedy The Heat -- Spy starts off mocking spy movies before getting down to the business of being a pretty competent version of one. Adrenaline junkies won't be blown away by Feig's passable action sequences, but because Spy transcends mere parody, it finds more places for laughs -- particularly, from Susan's interactions with her fellow spies, who aren't convinced she'll survive in the field.

The other major selling point of Spy is that McCarthy has shed the boorish persona that, ironically, helped make her an A-list star. After being nominated for an Oscar in Bridesmaids, the actress has essentially duplicated that character's in-your-face outrageousness in subsequent films, to greatly diminishing comedic returns. In Spy, she plays a woman with little self-confidence pining for the dashing Fine. …

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