Apparently (and happily), we have moved on from the glut of vampire and zombie films in past years to emerge in the year of the spy movie. The action got going with Kingsman: The Secret Service in February and continues later this year with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation in July, August’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Bridge of Spies in October, and the latest James Bond installment in November. Before those, though, we get Melissa McCarthy’s latest (aptly named Spy), a pseudo-spoof of many films that have gone before it but also a solid stand-alone spy comedy on its own.
Writer-director Paul Feig, who steered McCarthy through her two funniest films, 2011’s Bridesmaids and 2013’s The Heat, teams with her again for Spy. While it’s not the unadulterated laugh-fest those two were, Spy still works better than most recent comedies, and it will most likely emerge as the funniest thing to hit screens this summer.
McCarthy is Susan Cooper, a CIA agent on paper but one who lives her days in the rat-infested basement at Langley as part of a support team for the honest-to-goodness field agents. Evil mastermind Rayna Boyanov (Bridesmaids’ Rose Byrne) is trying to sell a portable nuclear device to the highest bidder, but since she’s discovered the identity of all the field agents, the CIA has no choice but to put Cooper into action to foil Rayna’s plan.
Feig’s script is full of the same raunchy humor that populated Bridesmaids, and it easily outshines McCarthy’s recent (non-Feig) work– by just letting her shine as a comedian and not relying on her to bumble her way through goofball situations; her actual talent is on display here, not her ability to prat-fall and embarrass herself. The cast also includes Jason Statham as a wickedly pompous agent (who is continuously boasting about all the danger he’s survived), Jude Law as Cooper’s suave charge, and Call the Midwife’s Miranda Hart as Cooper’s hilarious best buddy. (There’s also an inexplicable and wholly unnecessary cameo from rapper 50 Cent, but we’ll just ignore it and move on.)
Feig keeps things moving with a pretty nifty car chase, some gripping cat-and-mouse play, and a fairly effective third-act twist, and even though things start to peter out a bit toward the end, Spy, as a whole, is a solid comedy and certainly worth every penny.
Even better, McCarthy has restored my faith in her ability to choose a good project. After duds like Tammy and Identity Thief, I’d begun to doubt she’d be able to regain her spot as one of Hollywood’s top comedians. Mission Accomplished.