Wednesday, June 10, 2015
You'll laugh your head off at "Spy," in which the team of star Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig, who've given us "Bridesmaids" and "The Heat," again prove to have their fingers on the pulse of contemporary comedy. "Spy" is at once familiar and fresh, profane and tender, slapstick and subtle. It's richly conceived, with a heaping handful of memorable characters inhabited by gifted actors.
McCarthy's Susan Cooper is a CIA analyst who, from the comfort of her desk at headquarters, whispers into the earpiece of Jude Law's super-agent Bradley Fine (as in 'He's so…'), who knows Susan has a crush on him and exploits it with plausible deniability. When Fine's killed by a Bulgarian baddie dealing in nuclear arms, the perpetually hidden-in-plain-sight Susan volunteers to track and report the European peregrinations of his spoiled princess of a daughter, Reyna (Rose Byrne). Hilariously self-aggrandizing agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) objects, but department head Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney), sick of Ford's macho rodomontade, awards Cooper the assignment. (Of course, she'll have to go as a crazy cat lady from Iowa.)
I'm aware of McCarthy's status as a love-her-or-hate-her figure. She' s had her share of dogs ("Identity Thief," "St. Vincent") and flirted with becoming a Johnny One Note, but also crafted a comic character - Megan in "Bridesmaids" - we've never seen before and, here, finally gets a script that gives her some quiet moments along with those that utilize her commanding volubility and game physicality. The effect is to have even non-fans on her side from go. It's not just her show, but the joy of the movie lies in her interplay with Byrne and Statham and Law. And I haven't even mentioned the two supporting players who steal the show: Miranda Hart, amusingly ingenuous as the gangly Nancy, who does for Susan what she did for Fine and also uses the warhead caper to break out of her shell; and especially Peter Serafinowicz, unforgettable as Susan's Italian chauffeur Aldo, who hits on her with the relentlessness of a dog with a bone.
To all three of Feig's and McCarthy's highly successful crowd-pleasers ("Spy" won its opening weekend over the equally entertaining "San Andreas") there is the feeling of comedy preternaturally tuned in to the zeitgeist. Their feminism is not the catty, sexless brand of those who live to pepper inapposite contexts with words like "mansplaining," but an easy and fully realized vision that sweeps all of us up in its happy wake. McCarthy's here to stay, and if you'll give her only one chance to convert you, "Spy" is the one.