James Bond Spoofs Have Never Been Funnier Than Spy
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2015 4 Jun
DVD Release Date: September 29, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: June 5, 2015
Rating: R (for language throughout, violence, and some sexual content including brief graphic nudity)
Run Time: 120 min.
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale, 50 Cent, Jessica Chaffin, Miranda Hart
Whenever an actor is known for a particular brand of humor (Jim Carrey's rubber-faced antics, for example, or Will Ferrell's dim-witted-man-who-refuses-to-grow-up shtick), audience fatigue can't help settling in if the laughs aren't evolving. And the same could be said for a perpetual scene-stealer like Melissa McCarthy if she didn’t bother showcasing another side of herself onscreen once in a while—something she did with believable pathos as a single mother in last year's St. Vincent.
While McCarthy has returned to her genre of choice in Spy, her third collaboration with writer/director Paul Feig (The Heat), this effort is easily her finest yet because it's more nuanced than one-dimensional. Not only does the promising set-up of McCarthy channeling her inner James Bond deliver far more than the requisite easy laughs, but by not resting the entire comedy on her shoulders and actually giving her superb supporting cast plenty of funny material to work with, too, McCarthy's star manages to shine even brighter.
I haven't been part of a screening audience that's laughed this loud since Bridesmaids arrived in theaters back in 2011. In fact, there were moments where I missed several lines of dialogue because they were muffled by enthusiastic fits of giggles. The reason is that Feig took a simple premise (the frumpy wallflower getting a chance to bloom in a big, big way) and let his imagination run positively wacky.
As a bonus, Feig also has a little fun with our perceptions of the actors involved. To wit, Jude Law (Black Sea) is just as smug as you think he'd be as pretty boy Bond-type Bradley Fine. Even better is action movie veteran Jason Statham (Furious Seven) who is even more inept as a spy than McCarthy's Susan Cooper. Statham's deadpan delivery during lengthy accounts of what he's survived in previous missions is just one of the film's many joys.
But before Susan Cooper acquires several new aliases, she's the eyes and ears for Mr. Fine. As she expertly guides him through a series of perilous situations, their easy banter makes Susan wish there was something more to their relationship. When the unlikely pair go out for dinner to celebrate another successful mission, Cooper's suspicions about Fine's feelings are confirmed when he gives her a gift. Instead of something positively swoon-worthy in the black velvet box, there's quite possibly the ugliest necklace ever made inside—a smirking cupcake pendant attached to a Dollar Store chain. Cooper begins wanting more from life, more from her relationships. Little does she know, her shining moments will involve cracking a few skulls.
After the identities of the CIA's major players are revealed, Susan graduates from the desk to the field. In a series of set-ups mined for maximum laughs, Susan gains confidence as she charged with tracking and reporting a Hungarian arms dealer named Rayna (a hilarious Rose Byrne, Annie). As Cooper transforms from the proverbial cat lady to a confident woman who goes rogue and brazenly makes her way out of a slew of dangerous situations, the script actually manages to give a Melissa McCarthy character some dignity in the process. No longer simply the butt of a string of tasteless fat jokes, McCarthy has an opportunity to be funny in new ways, a giant step forward. But Spy doesn't bother with any other significant themes or takeaways, as it never takes itself too seriously.
Now, should you see it? In terms of good taste, a few of the film's raunchier moments (see Cautions below) and its barrage of four-letter words make it impossible to recommend. But in terms of delivering consistent laughs well beyond what's shown in the trailer, Spy is right on the money. In fact, it's probably the best spoof of a Bond movie ever committed to film, a testament to the wide range of appeal that McCarthy, in particular, has demonstrated here.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking. Scenes in bars. A couple of scenes where “roofies” are slipped into someone’s drink unknowingly.
- Language/Profanity: The full gamut of profanity (the f-word count is well over a hundred) is utilized, including misuses of God’s name.
- Sex/Nudity: Crude references to different sexual acts and male and female anatomy, including two uses of the “c” word. A woman sees a prostitute performing oral sex on a client in the street from her taxi window. A running joke throughout involves an Italian man who can’t keep his hands off Susan (he repeatedly puts his hands on her backside and tries to touch her breasts). Two very quick shots of full frontal male nudity.
- Violence: Although meant for laughs in many cases, there are random bursts of violence throughout. In one scene, a man drinks poison that melts away his throat (yep, it’s just as gross as you’d think). A woman has a kitchen knife cut through the middle of her hand (also gross). People are killed by gunfire (bloody wounds often shown), stabbing and having their bones broken in grisly fashion. There are also intense helicopter and car chases. Video footage shows Susan serving up pain in a variety of frightening ways.
Publication date: June 4, 2015