Spy

Director: Paul Feig

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, 50 Cent, Miranda Hart

Rated: R (language throughout, violence, and some sexual content including brief graphic nudity)

A desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster.

 

Spy

By Matt Greene

Spy is everything this year’s Hot Pursuit wished it was: a giant, female-centric, laugh-out-loud action comedy that’s sprawling in its set-pieces, yet shining in its silliness. Through its physical comedy and unexpectedly cool combat scenes, it still manages to feel like a screwball comedy throwback with stellar verbal sparring between the great actors. So it’s not groundbreaking like Mad Max: Fury Road, or mind-boggling like Ex Machina, but those aren’t the goals. Spy will simply make you happy, nothing more, nothing less; and sometimes that’s really enough.

Much of that pure joy comes directly from the cast. From top to bottom, these gals and guys propel Spy to higher levels than movies of its kind often get. Everyone just seems to be having an absolute blast and that fun is contagious. Janney and Byrne stand out as solid and strong comedic presences. Hart and Statham steal every scene they are in, each playing with their own Hollywood identities to great effect. At the center of it all, McCarthy and Feig steer the ship swimmingly, often managing heartbreaking honesty and side-splitting hilarity all at once.

This mixture can, at times, make the proceedings feel more “cute” than LOL funny, especially as the movie’s somewhat-long runtime feels its length. However, as you settle into the world, you can’t help but love the ways in which it takes the self-righteousness out of spy thrillers by highlighting the hilariously mundane minutiae. Will it change your world or even really challenge you intellectually? Not in the least, but it will undoubtedly make you laugh…a lot.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

Spy

By Cole Schneider

Director Paul Feig and actress Melissa McCarthy are something like today’s more crude George Cukor and Katharine Hepburn (“The Philadelphia Story”, “Adam’s Rib”). Both are very talented at what they do, but their collaborations seem to bring out the best in each other. “Spy” is their third pairing after the brilliant “Bridesmaids” and the funny-but-uneven “The Heat”. This offering fits nicely between them. It’s not an instant classic, but it’s consistently and sharply funny, and the genre aspects work well too. As a spy-caper it has some fun, if predictable, twists. As a comedy it is thoroughly engaging and driven by stellar performances.

McCarthy is an improv genius. She completely outclasses all of her peers; there is no one in today’s cinemas that can match her broad wit. Here though, she is given her best vehicle yet to couple that sensibility with a genuine, subtle pathos. For her to get laughs is no surprise, for her to embody a character and emote in this way without sacrificing laughs is what Oscar nominations are made of.

The rest of the cast is game too. Jude Law, Rose Byrne, and Jason Statham, among many others are able to flex their comedic muscles on a ride that Feig gives an energetic style while still allowing the performances room to breathe. It’s also great to see typical male-centric genre-fare both embraced and undercut. There is plenty of guns, fights, and explosions, even some effective gore, but much of the comedy revolves around the silliness of Statham’s bravado, fashion, and McCarthy herself who isn’t the typical tall and handsome hero. “Spy” is a must see for anyone who enjoys movies, laughs, or happiness.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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