Spies like them
Former teacher, Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) had big hopes to find a life in the fast lane when she joined the CIA.She is partnered with the debonair Bradley Fine (Jude Law) and the pair fight terrorists, Susan from CIA Headquarters in Langley Virginia and Bradley out in the field. Swapping subtle for sassy, Susan Cooper is not your typical sleuth. However after being stuck in the basement for ten years, Susan yearns to be in the field but, due to a life of encouraged mediocrity, she has never actually considered a change in position. Instead she finds that leaving the punches to Bradley works well for the pair until, that is, one particular mission changes the operational line-up of CIA agents.As a result Cooper goes undercover, wielding her hidden spy skills and a serious dose of good humour to prove to the Agency, and herself, that she’s deserving of her position. Melissa McCarthy never fails to bring the laughter and Spy banks on this fact. Her hilarious costume changes go from single, sweater-loving mother of four, to Iowa cat lady, to glamorous body guard. Susan sheds her timidity in favour of courage when the time comes, and it’s entertaining to watch her grow ever more confident and determined as she kicks, punches and stumbles her way through Europe.
Plenty of one-liners and low-brow humour abound, from McCarthy, as well as co-stars Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart and Jude Law. In terms of genre, Spy is definitely a spy film, but more than that, it’s an obvious parody. More outrageous than Kingsman, it still fulfills the requisite slow-mo action shots, explosions, and gunfire, but it adds in humorous misfortune, awkwardness, and really comedic intensity. Statham goes entirely overboard; no one believes him anyway, but that bewilderment is what makes his character work.
Law is meant to be our heroic eye candy but falls short of being a true gentleman. I also had to ask, why make him American? I know they don’t trust the Americans with sophisticated James Bond types, but Law really could have just stayed a Brit… it would have been more effective. Byrne is entirely believable as a mafia princess, spoiled but not afraid of blood, guns or knives, and I also really enjoyed that both McCarthy and Byrne were the opposing protagonist/antagonist leads. Not only that, but they actually establish a sort of understanding by the end of the film that speaks volumes for women, which I find commendable.
Another key character in the film is agent ‘Aldo’ (Peter Serafinowicz), who tries desperately to play paramour to Susan, with no real success. Given the chatter about McCarthy’s weight in the past, I thought it excellent that her character had an amorous Italian vying for her affections throughout the film. Her weight is never given enough attention to dissuade the audience from believing her right to be confident, and that too, is paramount, not only for the film business but for society.
Plenty of one-liners and low-brow humour abound, from McCarthy and her co-stars.
A few issues remain for me. On occasion the humour does try too hard, and director/writer Paul Feig sometimes seems to be reaching for a laugh that would have better served the film if it was absent. This happens quite often with Nancy (Miranda Hart), and whilst I do adore Miranda Hart, I felt some of the hybrid American/British humour fell short of its potential or was too predictable. Many of the “I’m going to shoot you now” scenes are repetitive and cliched, which is slightly problematic and, if remedied, would have helped to speed up the film and keep it on track with its action expectations.
My most critical concern is the use of the best bits of the film in the trailer. Whilst this usage was effective for marketing, it does create a lull for the viewer. When Susan steals a moped, for instance, I was really excited for her character and her ballsy actions. But having seen the trailer beforehand, I knew exactly when the visual punchline would occur. And I was sadly never disappointed in my predictions. However, if you have yet to see the trailer, DO NOT watch it before seeing the film. It would have made a world of difference for my viewing experience.
Overall though, Spy does promise good laughs, especially with friends, and any McCarthy supporters out there should definitely enjoy it. I’m not promising vast amounts of wit, but if you need a giggle, get yourself to the nearest cinema.
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