- RatedM18 /GenreComedy
After watching Paul Feig’s latest laugh-out-loud outing ‘Spy’, two things are certain.
First. Melissa McCarthy is really (we mean, seriously) funny.
And the second: Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy make a good team.
They have worked together on the hilarious ‘Bridesmaids’, ‘The Heat’ and the breathlessly anticipated still-in-production all-female ‘Ghostbusters’, and Feig and McCarthy are the antithesis to the current wisdom that women in film don’t bring in the yuks, or just don’t bring in the dough.
With ‘Spy’, 44-year-old McCarthy cements her position as the funniest actor in Hollywood, coming into her own as the lead star in an uproarious action-comedy that takes the mickey – and then some – in the espionage-thriller genre.
This is Feig’s third femme-centric film after ‘The Heat’ and ‘Bridesmaids’. And like the previous movies, he knows how to create relatable characters that eschew Hollywood stereotypes. This time, the running idea is that action stars need not be superheroes.
Melissa McCarthy in 'Spy' | Photo: 20th Century Fox
In ‘Spy’, McCarthy travels the globe as a CIA agent Susan Cooper and surprises everyone – including herself – along the way.
The audience first sees Susan working at the rodent-infested basement of CIA headquarters in Langley, where she is the eyes and ears of Bradley Fine (Jude Law), a James Bond-esque super spy able to slip out of sticky situations thanks to Susan’s guidance.
A mission goes awry one day and Susan witnesses Bradley’s assasination by arms dealer Rayna Boynov (a very catty Rose Bryne) who somehow knows the identities of all the CIA top operatives.
Arguing that she’s the only one who won’t be recognised, Susan demands to go into the field to avenge her partner and stop Rayna from selling a suitcase nuclear bomb to a terrrorist group.
This is where the hilarity kicks off: when her boss gives her a series of frumpy secret identities for her mission (“I look like someone’s homophobic aunt,” she grumbles).
As ever, McCarthy is more than willing to let her size be the butt of embarrassing jokes.
The sight of Susan in a curly grey wig, a cat-print t-shirt, and outfitted with gadgets are comedy gold, and subversive.
Through Susan, Feig’s ‘Spy’ is a sharp rebuke to all the testosterone-fuelled fare that hits our screens every blockbuster season.
Women dominate 'Spy', with Susan, the villainous Rayna, the CIA boss Elaine (Allison Janney) and the highly-strung analyst Nancy (British comedy queen Miranda Hart). Don’t judge a book by its cover, goes a famous adage, and the villains – even the good guys – learn a thing or two when they underestimate Susan’s abilities.
Melissa McCarthy (left) and Nargis Fakhri in 'Spy' | Photo: 20th Century Fox
Underneath that dowdy outfit is a capable spy who is just out of practice; and she gets better at it as the plot goes along.
Even some of Susan’s more “capable” colleagues – such as Jason Statham’s overconfident agent Rick, who just keeps making things worse, or Morena Baccarin’s glamorous female spy Karen – just couldn’t cut the mustard.
And the gags… although the movie ribs spy flicks through the years, the jokes never descend into ‘Austin Powers’ absurdity. Feig, who also co-wrote the script, manages to present it not just as a spoof, but a serious action piece. Susan ably takes on fights convincingly, jolting the viewers into remembering that this is a spy-thriller.
A guaranteed crowd-pleaser well worth the ticket money.
‘Spy’ opens 21 May 2015