Since I loved Bridesmaids and disliked Ghostbusters, I was curious about another Melissa McCarthy-starring, Paul Feig-directed film that was released in between: Spy (2015). (And let’s face it, I might just have a little interest in the subject matter.) The result falls somewhere in between those two comedies: more uneven than Bridesmaids, more assured than Ghostbusters, it’s an enjoyable send-up of the Bondian spy adventure, through a feminist lens.
McCarthy is Susan Cooper, a CIA intelligence analyst who serves as the headquarters support agent for superspy Bradley Fine (Jude Law), a handsome, cocky man of action completely oblivious to Susan’s worship of him. Their partnership meets its end at the hands of the treacherous Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), who takes out Fine while Susan watches helplessly from his eyeball cameras. Boyanov makes it clear she knows all of the CIA’s top agents, so Susan — a trained field agent who, years ago, meekly allowed her operational ambitions to be diverted — convinces her boss Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) that, with her spotless cover, she might be the best option to go after Boyanov. Crocker bites on the idea, sending Susan to Europe to track down the dangerous Boyanov and prevent her from auctioning off a nuclear bomb to terrorists.
Spy isn’t about to climb onto the Spy 100 list, but it’s pretty good comedy, thanks largely to McCarthy’s natural comedic presence, solid support, and a decent supply of funny dialogue and sight gags. The script does have some unfortunate tendencies, overly leaning on material that plays off McCarthy’s looks; some of this is hilarious (her tech briefing with a clearly misogynistic “Q” is classic, and her frumpy cover personas are great), while others grow tedious (her fashion sparring with Boyanov, the way cliched Italian men dismiss her on the streets of Rome). Another repeating joke that does work is Jason Statham’s furious tough-guy act as gruff, rogue agent Rick Ford; Statham has a great time taking the piss out of himself, becoming a great rival to Cooper. He’s also a solid source of material supporting one of Spy‘s greater missions: satirizing the absurd testosterone levels of the spy genre, which could certainly use a comedic feminist counterpoint. Spy, an entertaining romp, fits that bill reasonably well.