Cinema review: Spy

2015’s best comedy even if it goes on 30 minutes longer than it should

Melissa McCarthy in Spy.

Melissa McCarthy in Spy.

IN 2011 Bridesmaids was the sleeper hit studios dream of. It cost $30 million went on to gross nearly $300 million. It made Kristen Wiig a star and finally gave Paul Feig the hit he had coming. He had a stellar TV career - Freaks and Geeks, The Office - but he fumbled his first two attempts at the big screen.

Bridesmaids was always going to be a tough act to follow so he has reunited here with Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne, presumably in attempt to recapture some of the magic. Feig has already proved he is the person to get the most out of McCarthy. She has been the lead in several films since Bridesmaids but none captured her ability to be both charming and wonderfully disgusting at the same time.

McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a basement CIA employee and overqualified assistant to Jude Law’s James Bond-ish Bradley Fine. When Fine is gunned down on assignment by weapons dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne ) Cooper wants revenge. The CIA subsequently discover all their active operatives have had their identities leaked so must turn to Cooper, as an unknown agent, to track down Boyanov, allowing Cooper to finally become a field agent.

The story here does not really matter, but it is not as plotless as Anchorman or other ensemble comedies. The language is extremely surprising in Spy. F-words and C-words thrown around with glorious abandon, but they are not cheap laughs, as they have the creativity of the insults and profanity to rival a Tarantino or Scorsese movie. There is a 20 minute section in the second act where McCarthy and Byrne are conversing and insulting each other and it might be the most I’ve laughed in a cinema ever:

When people describe actors having chemistry, Byrne and McCarthy are the new gold standard for that term. The movie has some really great supporting actors but it absolutely lights up and is at its best when Byrne and McCarthy are just riffing off each other. McCarthy here is much funnier than she is in Bridesmaids. She’s not resorting to gross out gags or jokes about her weight, which can get tiring. She is allowed to be herself, she is allowed to be smart and cunning, all while showing her incredible gifts as a physical comedian. She is also surrounded by a fantastic comedic cast; and Jason Statham reminds us he can be funny for the first time since Snatch, while the always hilarious, and annoyingly underused, Peter Serafinowicz is brilliant.

However, there is one gripe. Directors should understand NO COMEDY EVER NEEDS TO BE TWO HOURS. It is absurd that we watch these comedies that people are just dying to leave towards the end despite really enjoying the first 90 or so minutes. All in all though it is 2015’s best comedy by some distance and a worthy follow up to Bridesmaids.


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