I’m curious as to whether there is any middle ground with Melissa McCarthy. She’s a comic with a very in-your-face brand who does variations of the same shtick in practically every film she makes. Now if you enjoy that you’re likely to appreciate every one of her films to varying degrees. If you don’t then you’re going to struggle with every movie she makes.
Her action/comedy “Spy” is no different. It is full-blown McCarthy bouncing back and forth between self-deprecating, ‘fish out of water’ humor to loud, obnoxious, profanity-riddled “comedy”. Fans are sure to find it entertaining. I don’t fit that description which explains why I found it tedious, juvenile, and at times unbearable.
McCarthy plays her usual character – a sympathetic oddball eccentric. This time she plays a CIA Operator named Susan Cooper whose job is to sit behind a desk and relay information to debonaire field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Susan aspires to be a field agent herself but lacks self-confidence. Plus she likes working with Bradley mainly due to a small but obvious crush. But he (like nearly everyone else in the film) doesn’t take her seriously which does nothing to boost her spirit.
Bradley is sent on a mission to retrieve a suitcase nuke from terrorists but things go terribly wrong. Susan is allowed in the field by her mean-spirited and reluctant boss Elaine (Allison Janney). Her job is strictly to observe, but a series of mishaps thrusts the desk-bound operator deeper into the wacky, violent spy world.
Director Paul Feig had a hit in 2011 with “Bridesmaids” but followed it with the appallingly bad “The Heat”. And this year he is credited with directing the terribly bland “Ghostbusters” reboot. “Spy” doesn’t do anything to even out his track record. There is little new here. We get the standard McCarthy weight and appearance gags. We get a vomit gag. We get body part gags. And so on and so on.
The movie does introduce a number of quirky side characters most notably Jason Statham as a belligerent and oafish field agent and Rose Byrne as the evil villainess. Both fall into their parts well. Unfortunately both characters are undercut by Feig’s puerile writing. His insistence on forcing profanity in their every sentence makes them sound ridiculous. Perhaps the one reasonably authentic character is found in Susan’s loyal friend Nancy (Miranda Hart).
The story itself tries to be a globe-trotting spy spoof but its antics get tiring. It attempts to change things up midway through by giving McCarthy’s character a profound transformation. The problem is it doesn’t feel genuine or earned. Even worse I found it made Susan shallower and far more annoying.
Yes I know people loved “Spy”. I know it made a ton of money at the box office. I know it was critically praised and sits at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. So be it. I simply don’t see the attraction. It is another in a long line of modern comedies that cling to the same methods. Much like McCarthy, if you like that type of humor you’ll probably like “Spy”. If you want something fresh, intelligent, and outside of the modern norm good luck finding it here.
VERDICT – 1.5 STARS