Release: 9th November 2015
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Despite having solid field training, CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) has spent her entire career as a desk jockey, working hand-in-hand with dashing agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Using high-tech equipment and a hidden earpiece, Susan is the guardian angel who helps Bradley avoid danger. However, when Bradley is assassinated by Bulgarian arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), Susan wrangles her way into her first undercover assignment to help capture Boyanov and avenge Bradley.
When director Paul Feig and actress Melissa McCarthy get together, one of two things happens; we either get comedy gold (Bridesmaids) or a painful misfire (Heat). With the pair’s third outing together we hit new ground, somewhere firmly in-between. Something with gut-punch belly laughs and face-palm embarrassment.
Spy starts on a misstep, with some offbeat scenes involving bats, cake and Jude Law’s horrendous American accent. In fact, the entire first act of Spy is a serious groan-fest. Jokes fall flat, Jason Statham tries (and fails) to embrace his inner idiot, McCarthy tries desperately to play against type, and we are spoon-fed the unnecessary details of a contrived plot. It’s only when McCarthy’s Susan Cooper meets up with Rose Byrne’s Rayna Boyanov that things finally warm up. When Feig eventually stops trying to spoof the spy genre, and instead begins to make a comedy about a spy, the film becomes a riot. There is a great scene in a casino, some hilarious banter between McCarthy and her whipping boy Anton, and some surprisingly intense fight scenes.
As the inevitable 3rd act looms, however, rigamortis sets in; stiffening the last twenty minutes into an unfunny romp. What was once a promising star vehicle for the brilliant McCarthy soon becomes dull and tired. There are whole sections of the last chase scene that feel stringkly similar to last year’s 22 Jump Street. Everyone involved is better than this, but you wouldn’t know it.
The film’s strength is obviously Melisa McCarthy. It is hard not to have a crush on the woman when she is consistently so hilarious and endearing. Spy marks a slight departure from her usual bullish performances, offering her the chance to portray a woman who is capable but doesn’t quite know it. This allows for her to get one of the film’s biggest laughs, involving a dead body and some vomit. Swooping in from the sidelines are Peter Serafinowicz as the Italian letch Aldo, and the ever reliable Allison Janney as Susan’s boss. Both share some great scenes with McCarthy, but also carve out some decent moments for themselves. The rest of the cast – love ‘em – try their best but just don’t have enough meat or grip to do anything but lampoon clichés and goof their way through the film’s lengthy two hour runtime.
Spy feels like a safe shot from a decent director. Its strengths are in its fresh take on feminism in the genre, and of course its main star. But all involved are way beyond capable of producing something stronger and more sophisticated. Spy is a wasted opportunity, if not a reasonable attempt at comedy.
Film Grade: C-
Not available at time of review, but they include a wealth of treats;
- Unrated Cut
- 3 Redacted Scenes
- 15 Classified Alternate Scenes
- Top Secret Gag Reel
- Extra Top Secret Behind-the-Scenes Gag Reel
- Director of Intelligence Feig Makes the Cast Do His Bidding
- Susan and Her Men
- Super Villain Rayna Can’t Keep it Together
- Super Vermin
- The Many Deaths of Anton
- The Trouble With Covers
- The Great Rick Ford
- For Your Eyes Only: Jokes-A-Plenty
- The Handsy World of Spies
- Speaking is an Art Form
- Super Villains of the Animal World
- How Spy Was Made – 8 Behind the Scenes Featurettes
- The Filmmakers Tell You How Spy Was Made While You Watch The Movie! aka The Commentary Track (Jessie Henderson, John Vecchio, Paul Feig, Robert Yeoman, Walter Garcia)