It looks like it’s the year of the female protagonists. After redefining the cop buddy movie with Sandra Bullock in The Heat, director Paul Feig and actress Melissa McCarthy deliver their take on that glorious, sophisticated sub-genre that is the spy film. This is no Johnny English though – Feig once again uses McCarthy’s badass persona for the giggles, playing on our expectations of what a spy needs to be and, well, what a spy really needs to do.
Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is happy being the voice in the ear of superspy, supersexy Bradley Fine (Jude Law), but when he is killed in action and the identity of all field agents exposed, she has no other option but to leave the comfort of the computer to the adrenaline of the chase. With the help of friend Nancy (Miranda Hart), the banter of Rick Ford (Jason Statham) and the company of villain Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne), Cooper tries to save the day while wearing comfortable shoes.
Is Spy funny? Yes, it is. But it’s hardly original. A rework of the Ugly Ducking story – only, spoiler alert, no swan ending – into a series of misadventures with gadgets, fast cars and stylish clothes (kinda). Spy won’t make you roll on the floor laughing, but its dialogues (particularly between McCarthy and Byrne, and every single word that falls from Statham’s mouth) will snatch a few smiles off your face. But if the sudden change in McCarthy’s character from shy tech girl to full on bad-mouthed action woman feels rushed to you, well, you’re not the only one. Though Feig’s characters present an unusual depth for comedy, in the end it’s the stereotypes that will get the laughs. We get it, Cooper is put into boxes by her boss, and given exciting secret identities such as crazy cat lady and single mom, but no matter how subversive it is (and on that matter we have no doubt), it does get tiring on the last half hour of film. Until then, however, top notch action comedy film. McCarthy may be playing on her usual field, and so is Miranda Hart (her awkward british humour is the perfect combination for McCarthy’s big american personality). However, the true commanders of the acting skill are Byrne, capable of making the audience fall for her strange mix of total inability to survive in the tough crime world and badass demeanor in very high hells, and Statham, playing an extreme and caricatured version of his usual persona, accent and all.
A must-see for McCarthy’s lovers and Bridesmaids fan-girls and boys, Spy is a great and hopeful warm-up for that Ghostbusters film that Feig has around the corner…
Spy is on UK cinemas from today.