My relationship with American comedy has always been....complicated. Generally I find it a bit too dumb, crude and loud to actually be funny. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and one of these was Paul Feig’s 2011 comedy Bridesmaids. A fun and funny film about female friendships, it was the breakout mainstream role of Melissa McCarthy. Since then she has become known for her larger than life characters and now she teams up once again with Feig for Spy, a fast paced and full of laughs espionage comedy.
The film starts off with suave Bradley Fine (Jude Law), superspy of superspies. He has the suit, he has the gadgets, and in his ear he has Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy); a desk bound agent stuck in the basement at HQ and giving him directions and know-how. When Fine goes off the grid Susan, someone who has always been told to blend in and not be a bother, has to step up and into the field, much to the annoyance of agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham).
The strength of the film lies in the fact that whilst this is a world of homage to James Bond and the like, it exists with a playful and winking spin on things. Susan has secret identities, but they’re divorced single mums or crazy cat ladies. She has gadgets, but they’re disguised as haemorrhoid wipes and stool softener tablets. However, at the same time Susan isn’t incompetent or a buffoon who sort of stumbles through the film. She is genuinely good at her job and is very capable, if lacking in confidence, and McCarthy’s size doesn’t become the punch-line to poorly thought out jokes. It shouldn’t feel refreshing, but it does.
McCarthy is backed up by a great supporting cast, Law is appropriately smooth, and Statham is something of a comedic secret weapon giving a deliciously and ludicrously straight deliver of his extreme spy exploits. Others include Miranda Hart, Peter Serafinowicz, Alison Janney and Rose Byrne’s elegantly dressed but foul mouth arms dealer. Everyone really goes for it and ensures that the laughs are constant and fairly reliable, a few of my less liked moments of vulgarity aside.
Whilst not unfamiliar to action after The Heat, Feig really steps it up here with some really well done and well shot fight sequences. This includes one in a kitchen that serves to highlight just how well Feig has balanced the action-comedy sides of the film. Some of the fights get a little too over the top, but it feels tongue in cheek rather than relishing in the violence.
Ever since Mad Max: Fury Road exploded onto our screens the topic of female led films has been brought into the forefront of discussion. Whilst I wouldn’t say that Spy is near that in terms of scale, it does do for comedy what that film did for action; showcase that female talent in more than capable in a mainstream arena. Spy is a lot of fun, hugely entertaining and is definitely the funniest film of the year so far.