Jun 8, 2015

McCarthy is the premiere motion picture comedian of her time.


Grade: B+

Director: Paul Feig (Bridesmaids)

Screenplay: Feig

Cast: Melissa McCarthy (The Heat), Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later)

Rating: R

Runtime: 120 Min.

by John DeSando

A winning parody of the spy genre, Spy has some effective one-liners and putdowns as well an improvement in Melissa McCarthy’s filmography with a heroine, Susan Cooper, not relying on her girth to get mirth. Writer/director Paul Feig has a successful relationship with his star from Bridesmaids and The Heat, more so now that her character’s CIA desk job turns into field agent, and she kicks butt with mouth and feet.

The usual tropes of films like the Bond series are here: Cooper’s unrequited love for 007-like Bradley Fine (Jude Law) just as Moneypenny had for Bond, a gizmo factory for agents, double crosses, clichéd European destinations like Paris and Rome, helicopters, diamonds, etc.  The audience will not miss the references but will also not be terribly edified by how obvious they are, and Law is pretty enough but misses Connery’s subtlety.

However, when McCarthy and bad boy CIA agent Rick Ford (an effectively vacuous Jason Statham), get into verbal sparring, you’ll think you’ve crossed over into the set of a screwball comedy. Well, not that good, especially because of Spy’s reliance on the F word to carry the humor. The script would be far better if not for that word and if Feig had tightened the loose plot line.

Cooper’s archenemy, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne from Bridesmaids), is every bit a Bond bad babe: uncommonly  beautiful, duplicitous, and conscienceless. For instance, when she calls out Coop’s tastelessness (“abortion of a dress”), she becomes a convenient  foil to Cooper’s endearing innocence. Terrorists are amusing, especially rakish Bobby Cannavale, who dons the debonair as easily as he does his  blue-collar bigots. Look out for Guardian of the Galaxy’s Peter Serafinowicz as an over-the top Italian agent annoying but inventive in his adoration of Cooper.

All this is to say Spy is an entertaining spoof exposing the considerable comedic talent of Ms. McCarthy as the audience slowly forgets the fat on which she built her persona. Femmes star commandingly in Pitch Perfect 2 and Trainwreck so far this summer; distaff divas appear to be here to stay, and McCarthy may be the queen of the crew.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at