Writer/Director Paul Feig returns to theaters this weekend with his latest film starring his current on screen muse Melissa McCarthy, Spy. The film marks the 3rd time the duo have teamed together after McCarthy’s breakout role in Bridesmaids and the uneven Sandra Bullock team up The Heat. McCarthy has floundered without Feig’s guidance, except for a strong turn in St Vincent last year, with some high profile leading performances that have been terrible, though she has remained a box office draw. Can re-teaming with Feig lead to another Bridesmaids sized hit both critically and at the box office?
Spy treads some familiar water as Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst that helps her on mission partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law) escape danger and complete his objectives, all from the safety of her desk in the CIA “basement”. But after things go terrible wrong with their last mission, Fine is gone and the identities of all the CIA undercover agents are revealed, its up to Susan to go into the field and actively lead a mission of her own. With the support of her fellow analyst and bestie Nancy (Miranda Hart) and the constant interference of outed spy gone rouge Rick Ford (Jason Statham), Susan must track down the notorious Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) and stop her from selling a portable nuclear device.
Spy is a story that sounds very similar in concept to 2008’s Get Smart, but the actual script and plot are quite different. The first half of Spy is hit and miss, McCarthy is only sporadically funny and Law’s charm works to keep us engaged. But without the amazing work from Statham playing against type as an arrogant yet accident prone and dimwitted super spy and the amazing Miranda Hart as Nancy who almost steals every scene she is in, the first half of the film would have fallen flat. The film really takes off with the formal introduction of the brilliant Rose Byrne. Byrne and McCarthy have a obvious chemistry that ignites the screen and the pair are brilliant working off each other for the final half of the film. Byrne is on fire here and to McCarthy’s credit she elevates her performance to match.
There are other sideline characters introduced that are hit and miss as well, Peter Serafinowicz is stuck with a one note joke that goes on far too long, but Bjorn Gustafsson and Bobby Cannavale deliver memorable supporting turns. The film may be the best looking film of Feig’s directorial career as he uses the exotic locations he’s afforded with aplomb. At a 2 hour run time, the film is still paced really well, especially in the 2nd half, as it never becomes really boring at any point in time.
Spy ends up being much funnier than its premise should have allowed it to be. Bolstered by some great supporting performances and Melissa McCarthy’s best showing since Bridesmaids, Spy delivers one of the funnier secret agent spoofs we’ve seen on screen. It’s the surefire hit that Melissa McCarthy desperately needed after her recent critical disasters and sets Feig back on track as one of the comedic directors to keep an eye on.