Spy Paul Feig

Spy Paul Feig
7
Some ideas you just know are going to work. For instance, when Melissa McCarthy re-teams with her Bridesmaids and The Heat director Paul Feig for a fish-out-of-water comedy in which she plays an undercover agent for the CIA, it's hardly surprising that the results are this enjoyably profane. Thankfully, Spy is not so much another tired spoof of the genre in the vein of Austin Powers as more of a loving homage that generates much of its humour from its unlikely and uncouth hero.

McCarthy's Susan Cooper works in the basement at the CIA, where she's always in the ear of renowned agent and object of her unrequited love, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), while he's out on dangerous missions. But when he's killed trying to get close to Rayna (Rose Byrne), a woman suspected of trying to sell a nuclear warhead who's all too aware of the identities of active CIA field agents, there's little choice for Allison Janney's CIA leader but to grant Susan's wish and throw her into action.

The trouble with that plan is that Susan isn't exactly ideally suited for the role. Armed with a collection of gadgets disguised as embarrassing products in her purse, a series of undesirable fake identities and a set of combat skills that border on the incompetent, she begins to track Rayna's liaison De Luca (Bobby Cannavale). But as she travels from Paris to Rome to Budapest, Susan abandons her reconnaissance objectives to become increasingly embroiled in the case. 

The plot only incrementally moves forward in its search for the warhead, but generates its share of sticky situations in which McCarthy can amusingly flail around, from fight scenes to chase scenes. It also provides her with a suitable adversary in Byrne, whose haughty demeanour in treating Susan like garbage when they finally meet allows her to be both diabolical and funny, before a twist causes the roles to flip so that McCarthy can get her chance to shine at hurling bitingly hilarious insults.

Sure, maybe there are a few too many jokes that follow the familiar comedic formula of "You/I look like…" and an overabundance of supporting characters leaves you wishing there was more of Jason Statham's egotistical rogue agent and perhaps less of Peter Serafinowicz's horn-dog Italian agent or Miranda Hart's generic best friend. Hell, Cannavale is in the movie so little that you wonder if his character is maybe even expendable.

But it's hard to have too many gripes about a movie that has you laughing as consistently as Spy does, especially when it puts McCarthy's considerable talents to such good use. On the estimable Feig-McCarthy collaboration scale, it's probably a notch above The Heat and one below Bridesmaids. Now bring on Ghostbusters.

(Fox)