Spy (2015) Directed by Paul Feig. With Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Jason Statham and Rose Byrne.
Hear the word “spoof”, and Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun, or Airplane! spring to mind – a showreel of amusing sight gags, that, more often than not, run out of steam after about 20-minutes. Of course, the aforementioned are examples of spoof comedy done well, but for every Blazing Saddles, the genre is littered with cheap knock-offs, rushing to capitalise on the breakout success of series’ like Twilight or The Hunger Games. Written and directed by Paul Feig and starring Melissa McCarthy, Spy is an entertaining secret agent parody that never ought to have worked, given how many spy spoofs we’ve had between releases of Austin Powers, Get Smart and Johnny English…but work it does.
McCarthy is a hoot (good to see after a few recent misfires), reaffirming her ability to take the lead in a movie, especially after the mess that was 2014’s Tammy. Under Fieg’s witty direction, McCarthy is never anything less than very funny, and is supported by a host of inspired turns from Jason Statham, Jude Law, Allison Janney and Rose Byrne. Indeed, there’s a sense of relief in Statham’s performance as he revels in sending-up his own hard man screen persona. The British actor, best known for low-rent action vehicles, doesn’t hold back in fully realising the opportunity to mock his own career…and what’s more, he’s hilarious. Same applies to Jude Law, who relishes the chance to play a 007-style part, a role he’s long been associated with in the media.
Perhaps one minor drag is the presence of comedienne, Miranda Hart, who seems shoehorned in, probably due to her success on UK television – a case of a familiar name to sell the film in old Blighty!? Personally, I didn’t find her funny, moreover, she was out of step with the rest of the cast, but then, her whole shtick seems to revolve around awkwardness. Whatever, it didn’t work for me.
Though tonally, it is a film that has the immediate feel of a family caper, as is the way with contemporary Hollywood comedy, it has both feet planted in a Bridesmaids arena of the extremely potty-mouthed variety, with a side-order of viciousness. Fight Club’s Tyler Durden must have been at work, because at one stage I’m fairly certain I got hit smack in the face with a subliminal, monstrously erect willy.
For the most part, Spy is rich with fun, fast-paced action sequences that embrace comedy at every turn, but not in that standard, eye-rolling way of your average spoof – more a loving tread of ground that it knows has been overused, yet cleverly, it harnesses tired elements and refreshes them by the strength and willingness of the performances. 3.5/5