We’ve known since Bridesmaids that the combination of Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy results in stellar comedy. But their new collaboration, Spy— which may have the action of a Bond film but is pure Peter Sellers in its sensibilities— sees them elevated to full dream team. No one, not no one, is doing comedy like these two.
In Spy, McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a behind-the-scenes CIA analyst whose job is to live in the ear of the super suave Bondian Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Cooper is the very epitome of “mild mannered,” seemingly content (or at least not outwardly complaining) to spend her days as a remote handler in a vermin-infested basement, seeing action only through the cameras and earpieces Fine wears. Cooper is that woman in your office who spends weekends baking cakes for coworkers, while her coworkers are James Bonds and Agent Carters, jumping onto speedboats and sexily espionaging their ways across Europe. So when one of Fine’s missions goes awry and Susan has to step into his sexy spy shoes, there are the obvious immediate jokes that spring to mind. Over the last few years, most of McCarthy’s movies have revolved a single punchline: She’s crude, she falls down, she— no, that’s about it. The fantastic twist of Spy is that Cooper is actually good at her job. Really good. She was great at the basement analyst stuff, but she turns out to be even better at field work. It’s everyone’s perception of her that gets in the way. From her horrible boss (Allison Janney) who consistently gives Susan the worst, most ego-deflating cover identities possible, to the entire movie-stealing bumbling comedic relief that is Jason Statham (really), Cooper’s biggest obstacle isn’t getting her (wo)man— it’s getting her own people to appreciate her assets.
Ultimately, Spy isn’t perfect. While McCarthy carries this movie like a f*cking champ (while Statham steals it with shocking comedic skill), and the supporting cast kills it (especially Rose Byrne’s femme fatale and Miranda Hart’s cheerily bumbling, yet still competent BFF), the movie ends up succumbing to that comedy curse of just being about 20 minutes too long. Feig is a master of making kickass comedy, creating vehicles for women in a smart, physical way no one else is doing, but he does have some Peter Jacksony tendencies. Still, Spy is a very good movie, and that is only disappointing because it comes so close to greatness. This is (arguably, come at me, I’m ready) McCarthy’s greatest role to date, because it lets us see all of her. There are no other women (and quite possibly no men, either) out there doing physical comedy like she does it, but so often her films have us laughing at her as she nails her pratfalls. Here, she is a hero we root for and relate to and really love. She’s also sexualized by an equally hilarious and discomfiting Peter Serafinowicz, just enough to cut through the “she’s too unattractive to be a spy” theme. And boy oh boy, when she finally gets the chance to go full sexy badass Sydney Bristow, we are all of us Peter Serafinowicz.
‘Spy’ premiered at the SXSW film festival and opens in theaters June 5th.