Friday, June 12, 2015

Spy Review

I love having my expectations crushed from time to time. Judging by the previews for Spy (2015), it looked like yet another movie featuring a bumbling idiot character thrust into life-or-death action movie style stunts and miraculously making it out on the other side unscathed while scaring up some cheap and immature gags along the way. What I got instead was a surprisingly well written spy movie with likeable character only a little outside her element who delivers many hysterical scenes as she attempts to save the world.
Despite having solid field training, Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is an unassuming, desk bound CIA analyst, and the unsung hero behind the Agency's most dangerous missions by working hand-in-hand with the dashing Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Using high-tech equipment and a hidden earpiece, Susan is the guardian angel who helps Bradley avoid danger. However when Bradley unexpectedly falls off the grid at the hands of Bulgarian arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), Susan wrangles her way into her first undercover assignment to help capture Boyanov and avenge Bradley.
This is the first movie I've seen Melissa McCarthy in. My initial impression is that she's a remarkably good actress. She does comedy very well and bounces off other comical actors to create some hilarious scenes. She doesn't rely exclusively on dialogue written by someone else,  exaggerated expressions, nor over-the-top behavior to try to convince us she's funny. She actually is funny. Her delivery can be subtle yet still be hysterical. But she really shines when she goes into a rowdy, bull in a china shop mode where she's trying to act more confidant and assertive than the character of Cooper actually is. Sometimes this works and she intimidates the bad guys. Other times they see right through it and she has to quickly recover from her ruse, which is also funny. McCarthy's delivery is just hilarious and nearly everything she does is a stitch!
I was so worried that this was going to be a fish-out-of-water type of comedy where someone is put outside their element and bumbles around comically through their given task. Cooper is by no means stupid or naive; she's got training and knowledge on what to do as a CIA field agent, but since she doesn't quite fit the preconceived notion of what an agent is, she is kept in the analytics department where she also excels. When she is hesitantly made an undercover agent by her superiors, she is both excited and nervous. But unlike the amazing James Bond-like sleek spy gear they give her functional, but unflattering gear such a rape whistle that shoots a paralyzing dart, antidote pills in a bottle labeled "stool softener," and poison covered hemorrhoid wipes. She's given several secret identities which include a frumpy mother of five and a crazy cat lady tourist. Cooper is competent, but her lack of hands-on experience makes for some funny scenes; there's a couple of times she becomes nauseated after violently and successfully taking out bad guy and throws up.
Spy is a comedy action movie and there is a generous helping of each in the movie. The story is riddled with a variety of rapid fire jokes and gags, disrupted with rapid fire gun play. There's a fight scene between her and a knife-wielding assassin and Cooper is reduced to fighting with a frying pan. It's a very comical  fight scene but is also very intense. It's a beautifully constructed scene which had me giggling and sitting on the edge of my seat. I can't think of many movies that generate that kind of a divergent response.
While the humor was fantastic and intelligently written, it gets crude. Lewdness and vulgarity abound in some comedies mistaking foul language for humor. Unfortunately that is the case here, even if those sorts of jokes are much more intelligently incorporated into the script rather than being a bunch of easy grabs for cheap laughs. Thanks to some of the crudeness, resulting language, and some graphic violence Spy is rated R. I think some of it could have been toned down, that really is my only complaint about the movie. It's still a solid film and had me in stitches numerous times.
Spy was way better than I anticipated. It was a simple spy story with a fast, fun tempo and a nice message. The cast was phenomenal, the comedic timing and delivery was fantastic, and the dialogue was something akin to a James Bond film if it were written by Monty Python. The movie delivers some great action and a laugh a minute during its two hour running time. You'll get a lot of comedy bang for your buck. I generally don't enjoy comedies so much because they are saturated with cheap, stupid humor, but Spy was intelligently written and has a lot of witty humor. The vulgarity was off-putting, but overall Spy is a good movie that I can recommend seeing. It's worth the cost of a theater ticket, and if you are particularly fond of McCarthy or the genre, it's worth getting a copy of once it hits home video.

Comedies are so frequently juvenile and crude in a vain attempt to tell a dumb joke. What are some of the more intelligent comedies you've seen and enjoyed? Comment below and let me know!

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