In 2011 Melissa McCarthy had a supporting role in the Paul Feig comedy Bridesmaids. McCarthy dominated every scene she was in and earned an Academy Award nomination for her supporting role. Two years later, McCarthy and Feig teamed up with America’s sweetheart, Sandra Bullock, for the buddy cop film The Heat. The Heat earned critical acclaim along with the box office earnings of $229 million worldwide. The third installment in the McCarthy-Feig series is the new comedy Spy.
McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a quiet desk operative for the CIA who’s never been in the field. Cooper is teamed up with field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Over the years they’ve become a successful CIA team – Cooper in the earpiece, Fine in the field. While searching for a nuclear device, Fine is killed by Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), the daughter of a known terrorist. After Fine’s death, the agency learns Rayna knows the identity of their top spies. With everyone’s cover blown, and the nuclear device still for sale, the CIA has no choice but to put Cooper in the field.
Outraged with the decision to send Cooper into the field, super spy Rick Ford (Jason Statham) quits the CIA and vows to catch Rayna and stop the sale of the nuclear device on his own. The agency assigns Cooper to detail Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale); a man they believe is interested in buying the weapon. Cooper tries to tail De Luca while keeping her identity a secret and finding the people who killed Fine.
Spy movies have been easy to spoof since the popularity of James Bond. From the Get Smart to Archer, the seriousness of spy movies makes for great satire. Spy is no different. The satire is never overdone but Feig pulls on those strings at the right time. There’s a great spoof on Bond’s trips to see his gadget man Q when Cooper goes to visit Patrick (MADtv’s Michael McDonald) who disguises her gadgets as things like anti fungal spray and hemorrhoid wipes.
Spy is an excellent action comedy because the action is just good enough to be believable (see: the film’s opening sequence) and the entire cast is funny. Seriously, everybody is funny. McCarthy isn’t responsible for carrying the comedic moments alone. Rose Byrne, who is surprisingly phenomenal in comedies, delivers in all her scenes. The sad clown conversation Cooper and Rayna have is priceless. Peter Serafinowicz is hilarious as Aldo, an Italian spy who apparently went to The Pepe le Pew School for Picking up Women. The rest of the casts doesn’t disappoint either. If a character doesn’t have a funny scene, they at least provide a funny line or two that’s guaranteed to get a laugh.
The surprise of the film is Statham’s peformance as Ford. He’s the straight man this comedy but delivers some of the movies’ best one-liners. Ford’s rants to Cooper about his dangerous missions get more hilariously outrageous each time. Ford is great spoof on how ridiculous the Ethan Hunt characters people love in cinema really are. Statham commits 100% to every parody, joke, and action scene. Who knew Statham had this in him? I feel like we’ve been robbed of some golden Statham years. If we can get this Statham again, America needs him in a buddy cop film ASAP.
There’s something about Feig and McCarthy together that works and it works very well. They have amazing chemistry together and Feig is able to capture her comedic expertise onscreen better than any director so far. Feig not only has a great sense for comedy, he’s able to get the best out of his star player and surround them with the right talent the way a great coach does for a franchise player. We’ve seen this in cinema before – DiCaprio and Scorsese, Denzel and Spike, and Michael Caine in every Christopher Nolan movie ever made. There’s something beautiful about a director and actor having great chemistry. In two years, I expect to see McCarthy and Feig back on the big screen delivering another masterpiece. I can’t wait.