REVIEW: “Spy”

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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

1.5 stars

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28 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Spy”

    • I don’t know, I’m in the minority with this one. I know a lot of people really went for this thing. Comedy is a subjective thing, and this one proved it for me.

  1. I’m with you on this, though I saw it well over a year ago and can’t remember too much about it; I did find Statham funny, and it raised a couple of laughs from me elsewhere, but it was wildly overrated. 94%?!!!

    • Thank you. I don’t feel so alone now. Yes, 94%! Possibly one of the most bewildering RT scores ever. I thought Statham had the funnier moments but even his act ran out of gas (for me). I just don’t see it Stu!

  2. I sort of feel your pain. I’m weirdly in the middle when it comes to McCarthy. I’ve liked her in Spy, St. Vincent, and Ghostbusters but the other stuff she’s in I don’t go near because it looks truly awful. I think for me it comes down to how much she does get to bring out that shrill, obnoxious, self-deprecating side of her. She seems to enjoy being *that* more than being a subversive comic. I don’t get why she’d prefer to act stupider than she really is. I think she could be a really great actress if she tried more

    • I first saw her in Gilmore Girls and she was really good. But her movie career seems to be centered around her one-trick-pony routine. It seems like you know exactly what you’re going to get from her every time. It’s funny you mention Ghostbusters. Didn’t care for the movie, but I felt it was one of the better (more tolerable) McCarthy performances. Yet I heard many people saying they didn’t care for her because she was too reserved. That’s why I liked it!

  3. I turned it off half way through. It’s funny for a minute or two, then I start yawning. She’s actually quite smart and interesting. I wish she’d make better choices. I didn’t bother watching “The Boss”. For me, she’s become a female version of Adam Sandler. A little goes a long way.

    • “A little goes a long way.” That is so true. And since she doesn’t extend herself you’re pretty much out of luck if you don’t care for what she’s doing.

  4. Wow, I think we disagree on this as I really enjoyed this film as I ended up seeing it instead of Inside Out (the screenings sold out for that one) as I had fun watching it. My mother loves this film as she’s become a fan of Melissa McCarthy. I much prefer McCarthy’s work on Gilmore Girls.

    • I sat stone-faced through most of this thing. A couple of mild giggles in the first half but the second half drove me nuts. McCarthy’s shtick does nothing for me. I so miss her GG days.

  5. Haha…I guess I’m one of those people who liked this movie. However, everyone has a different taste for movies. Yet, you do make some valid points for your reasoning. Nice review.

  6. Interesting. The point can certainly be made there is no middle ground with McCarthy, but I think I found it. I do like her style of comedy, but generally in smaller doses. In other words, I love her supporting turns in Bridesmaids and This is 40, thought Identity Thief, The Heat, and Tammy were all terrible. That said, I did love Spy. In addition to MM, Statham really had me in stitches. Sure, the whole thing is juvenile, but this time it got me.

    • I think most people did go for it. I liked Statham at first but he eventually grew tiring. And I’m not totally against juvenile. It can be really funny. But for me this movie constantly sported a different kind of juvenile and it never struck a chord with me. But I’m in the minority with this one.

  7. You’re right about Melissa McCarthy – she can’t seem to break away from the same schtick that she relies on in every one of her films. Thanks for reaffirming my decision to skip this one. Great review!

  8. Now, normally I’d agree with you. Normally, as long as the ground is down and the sky is up, I’d say I hate McCarthy with every fibre of my being, what with her screeching comedic style and singularly one-note roles (hell, her part in Ghostbusters is simply her doing her shtick once more) she’s the female equivalent of Adam Sandler. I abhor her, and had I not been forced to watch this one because the wife wanted to, I’d never have seen it on my own recognisance.

    That said: I really didn’t mind this one. I think it was more to do with the supporting cast (Statham in particular) who held sway and made it a better film than it had any right being, but I laughed more than a few times and actually came away thinking it wasn’t too bad.

    I know, I can’t believe it either.

    • You’re not alone my friend. I guess I’m against the grain with this one. I stayed away from it mainly for the reasons you mentioned. But I remember reading numerous rave reviews and its RT score is strong. So I watched annnnnnd…nope.

  9. I loved it for a lot of reasons but the best was definitely Jason back in comedy. He should do this more often, he is so funny and I’d so want him to re-team with Guy Ritchie.

  10. My wife and I kind of enjoyed this, but I see your point on many things in your review. I recall very little of it and would never re-visit it again unless I’m starved for a stupid low brow comedy.

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