Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig do some bonding, James Bonding, in their latest comic collaboration, “Spy.”
A riotous and genuinely funny send-up of those 007 actioners, “Spy” nonetheless stands confidently on its own, thanks to Feig’s deft direction and a hilarious cast.
Front and center is McCarthy (“St. Vincent”), who Feig also directed in “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat,” in one of her best roles since the former, but it’s the ensemble cast that makes this a standout effort.
Rose Byrne (“Neighbors,” but also “Bridesmaids”) practically steals the show, while Jason Statham (“Crank”) takes a refreshing, self-parodying comic turn. And then there’s Jude Law (“Sherlock Holmes”), Allison Janney (“Juno”) and British comics Miranda Hart (BBC’s “Hypderdrive”) and Peter Serafinowicz (“Shaun of the Dead”).
In short, “Spy” is brimming with talent, and Feig lets none of it go to waste.
McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a desk-bound CIA agent supporting gentleman spy Bradley Fine (Law) on his exotically dangerous missions from afar. But to find a missing nuke, the recovery of which Fine hilariously botches, Cooper must go into the field herself.
Her primary lead is one Rayna Boyanov (Byrne), the arrogant, rude and hysterically condescending daughter of a recently deceased terrorist, who’s planning to sell the aforementioned bomb to the highest bidder.
Traveling under the most embarrassing of covers, assigned by her superior officer (Janney), such as a middle-aged single mom with a litany of humiliating ailments, and then a lonely, Midwestern cat lady, Cooper is tasked with tracking and reporting Rayna’s movements.
But her cover’s nearly blown at every turn, thanks to the ill-timed efforts of CIA superspy Rick Ford (Statham), who, infuriated after not being assigned the mission, decides to go rogue and settle it himself. Needless to say, that doesn’t quite go as planned, and with his self-proclaimed and ever-expanding list of sensational superspy feats, Ford becomes one of the film’s funniest recurring gags.
Fortunately, Cooper has some help from somewhat less incompetent allies, including loyal workmate Nancy (Hart) and amorous Italian agent Aldo (Serafinowicz), who provides literal (and liberal) hands-on assistance. But can they navigate the treacherous — and rather outlandish, it turns out — world of international espionage?
Either way, it’s a fun ride, peppered with sharp dialogue, clever visual gags, a fine degree of comic raunchiness and some surprisingly decent action sequences.
Feig’s candid approach to comedy is more than welcome. Folks who enjoyed “Bridesmaids” will appreciate “Spy’s” winning character dynamics and chemistry, especially between McCarthy and Byrne, while fans of spy movies will enjoy its lovingly self-deprecating take on the genre.
What raises “Spy” above other films of its ilk, though, is its pleasantly progressive approach. McCarthy delivers a refreshing take on the action movie heroine, while simultaneously breaking through the insipid typecasting that brought her odious roles in “comedies” like “Identity Thief” and “The Hangover Part III.”
It’s a great role, bolstered by an outstanding cast. And with all involved seeming to have had a genuinely good time, here’s hoping “Spy” sneaks a sequel into the mix.
“Spy” is rated R for language throughout, violence and some sexual content, including brief graphic nudity.