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Review: Spy

Spy
06.04.2015
7 10

This review originally ran as part of our Cinemacon 2015 coverage

Comedy films are some of the hardest to review, as it’s such a subjective genre; what I think is funny you may absolutely loathe and vice versa. It’s just the way it goes. With that said, I generally look at the success of a comedy by one simple question: Did it make me laugh out loud and frequently?  So, in watching SPY, the latest comedic effort from director Paul Feig and star Melissa McCarthy, I applied the same rule of thumb and it came out much better than expected. I did, in fact, laugh out loud and it was at a frequent pace. In that respect, SPY is a funny flick that delivers on its premise, albeit not exactly a classic.

At this point you’re either on board with McCarthy’s comedic stylings or you’re not. If you’re not, then there’s no need to continue reading. If you are, or are at least open to her shtick, then stick with me. SPY features McCarthy as Susan Cooper, a seemingly mild-mannered CIA operative who runs a desk, helping her man-crush field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) as he navigates top secret missions in Bond-like fashion, while treating her as a platonic bestie. However, a sudden change in the status quo opens up a unique opportunity for Cooper to take to the field herself and test her own SPY mettle, thus beginning her adventure into a whole new world.

It’s a classic fish-out-of-water tale mixed with the underdog trope and it ends up working quite well. Sure, there are some stereotypical moments here and there and a few running gags that don’t quite work (such as the recurring rodents in the CIA office bit), but they mostly pull it off. McCarthy plays to her strengths without overdoing it (mostly) and the supporting cast is nothing short of great, including Jason Statham as a “rogue agent,” Rose Byrne as the main villain with some serious big hair and anger issues, Peter Serafinowicz as a lewd European spy, Miranda Hart as Susan’s best friend, Nancy, Allison Janney as the humorless CIA boss, and Law’s Bond-esque character, who rocks the charm and action without falling into spoof.

And that’s another aspect that really helps SPY stay fresh; it’s not a spoof or a parody, so we’re not in NAKED GUN territory making fun of the spy genre, but rather a straight comedy that happens to take place within it. While there are some obvious nods here and there, it operates on its own frequency and plays to the strengths of the various cast members, chief among them McCarthy who manages to balance her comedy without going overboard, creating a heroine that’s funny, sassy, kind of a badass, and surprisingly humble; She’s definitely more BRIDESMAIDS than TAMMY here.

Byrne’s villain role is perfectly suited to her and she plays Raina Boyanov without the usual charm that we’ve seen in flicks like NEIGHBORS or the seriousness of INSIDIOUS; she’s clearly having fun with the bad-guy role and it’s a nice change of pace for her. However, nobody is having more fun in this film than Statham, who pretty much plays a stereotype of all his badass roles of the past with his Rick Ford. The only difference is that he’s more talk than action, as his deeds rarely match his words and it’s hilarious to see him bumble through the action rather than take charge. His back-and-forth scenes with McCarthy are one of the highlights of the flick and they both play exceedingly well off of one another.

The action in SPY is a mixed bag and it’s both one of the strengths and weaknesses of the film. There’s some well choreographed scraps throughout, including a fairly impressive knife fight between McCarthy and a female baddie and a decent car/moped chase, but the use of speed ramping gets a tad excessive and doesn’t always work, sometimes taking you out of the moment rather than into it. In terms of story, SPY is in no way reinventing the wheel, so in that respect it’s very basic and fairly pedestrian in plot (yet another ‘bad guys trying to get a nuke’ story). But this is a performance-driven comedy and thankfully that aspect works very well, although a few performances do fall into blandness, with both Bobby Cannavale and Morena Baccarin never rising beyond cardboard cutout characters by the time the credits roll, which seemed like a waste given their talents.

The R-rating is utilized well here, as the profanity is out in force and even the violence takes on some bloody (and hilarious) turns, giving the film a slight edge in both departments. With a "PG-13," I think SPY would’ve suffered tremendously, so letting everyone cut loose with an "R" made a world of difference. For those looking for a not-so-safe PG-13 comedy, SPY offers up some decent non-PC fare.  It’s silly, crass, sometimes shocking, sometimes stupid, but always entertaining. In the end, I found myself laughing from start to finish and that made it pass the comedy test. It’s not a total package win, but there’s more than enough to satisfy the masses, even if you aren’t a McCarthy fan, as the main supporting cast helps round out the film, especially with Statham, Byrne, and Law, who make this more of an ensemble piece than the McCarthy show. If nothing else, this should be a fun escape from all the big-budget mayhem that’s coming down the pipe this summer.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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-1
8:48PM on 06/04/2015
I may have to check this out after all, since all the reviews seem to be so positive. I didn't find the trailer very funny, but the reviews for the film have surprised me. I do get annoyed by McCarthy doing the same thing over and over. It was funny the first couple of times, but it's gotten kind of old now. But who knows, maybe I am wrong about the film after all.
I may have to check this out after all, since all the reviews seem to be so positive. I didn't find the trailer very funny, but the reviews for the film have surprised me. I do get annoyed by McCarthy doing the same thing over and over. It was funny the first couple of times, but it's gotten kind of old now. But who knows, maybe I am wrong about the film after all.
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6:05PM on 06/04/2015

I hate McCarthy

She plays the same annoying role every time. And this is the only reason I can't watch this movie. But for the love of god Rose Byrne is in it and she's beyond hot as fuck.
She plays the same annoying role every time. And this is the only reason I can't watch this movie. But for the love of god Rose Byrne is in it and she's beyond hot as fuck.
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9:04PM on 06/04/2015
YEEEEEEEEESSS!

Her and the chance to see Statham in a pure comedy will eventually get me to watch it.
YEEEEEEEEESSS!

Her and the chance to see Statham in a pure comedy will eventually get me to watch it.
4:09PM on 06/04/2015

The Heat

Maybe it's just because I live in Boston, but I friggin loved the Heat. She was funny in Bridesmaids too, so I'm rolling with it as long as she's working with Paul Feig. I was not a huge fan of whatever it was called she was in with Jason Bateman.... so we'll see. I also am looking forward to Jason Statham returning to comedy/caper films, he was a pretty funny straight man in the Guy Ritchie movies
Maybe it's just because I live in Boston, but I friggin loved the Heat. She was funny in Bridesmaids too, so I'm rolling with it as long as she's working with Paul Feig. I was not a huge fan of whatever it was called she was in with Jason Bateman.... so we'll see. I also am looking forward to Jason Statham returning to comedy/caper films, he was a pretty funny straight man in the Guy Ritchie movies
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10:35AM on 06/04/2015
All you people hating on McCarthy are just weightphobic. SJW;s unite!!!
All you people hating on McCarthy are just weightphobic. SJW;s unite!!!
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12:11PM on 06/04/2015
What does SJW mean?
What does SJW mean?
1:23PM on 06/04/2015
Social Justice Warrior
Social Justice Warrior
9:03AM on 06/04/2015
I feel this is going to be a lot of peoples guilty pleasure, even if they won't admit it. I just can't get passed McCarthy though. That one TV spot of her trying to pick up the scooter makes me cringe.
I feel this is going to be a lot of peoples guilty pleasure, even if they won't admit it. I just can't get passed McCarthy though. That one TV spot of her trying to pick up the scooter makes me cringe.
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1:20AM on 06/04/2015
There goes Jude Law's chance of ever being considered a contender for Bond.
There goes Jude Law's chance of ever being considered a contender for Bond.
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1:25AM on 06/04/2015
He's a good actor, but not a Bond.
He's a good actor, but not a Bond.
1:06PM on 05/03/2015
I caught a screening of Spy about a month ago, and this review pretty much sums up my take on it, except for 1 part...I have not been a Melissa McCathy fan at all, but I thought Spy was hilarious. This film made me a believer in her. I've always been a fan of Jason Statham, and I loved his role here. He starts out in his typical character, but then takes a sharp turn for the better. I'll definitely check this out again once it hits theaters.
Side note: the screening I saw had no end credits,
I caught a screening of Spy about a month ago, and this review pretty much sums up my take on it, except for 1 part...I have not been a Melissa McCathy fan at all, but I thought Spy was hilarious. This film made me a believer in her. I've always been a fan of Jason Statham, and I loved his role here. He starts out in his typical character, but then takes a sharp turn for the better. I'll definitely check this out again once it hits theaters.
Side note: the screening I saw had no end credits, and the final scene definitely had a tack-ed on feel. I can only assume the scene will be used as a mid-credit or post-credit scene, where it will follow much better.
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+4
12:45PM on 04/30/2015

Statham

I have always considered it a shame that he has had such a one note career. In his early Guy Ritchie films he was hilarious and had tremendous charisma while still seeming like a tough guy. It sucks he was type-cast, and maybe he did it to himself, into little else but monosyllabic macho crap.
I have always considered it a shame that he has had such a one note career. In his early Guy Ritchie films he was hilarious and had tremendous charisma while still seeming like a tough guy. It sucks he was type-cast, and maybe he did it to himself, into little else but monosyllabic macho crap.
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6:37PM on 04/30/2015
That's actually why I might go see this. Support him doing something different.
That's actually why I might go see this. Support him doing something different.
12:16PM on 04/30/2015
I would've given this a chance if they had cast someone other than McCarthy. Just hate her and her entire schtick.
I would've given this a chance if they had cast someone other than McCarthy. Just hate her and her entire schtick.
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11:09AM on 04/30/2015

So it seems like it may be a good movie.

Glad to hear. I'm all for good movies. I don't care who is in it as long as the team making the movie is putting the effort to entertain the movie going public. If you even consider yourself a fan of cinema then you should have the idea of being entertained by the people that you like and *gasp* people you don't like. Just because you don't like someones looks, personality, or world views, that doesn't mean that should stop you from enjoying a good movie.

Hooray for good movies!
Glad to hear. I'm all for good movies. I don't care who is in it as long as the team making the movie is putting the effort to entertain the movie going public. If you even consider yourself a fan of cinema then you should have the idea of being entertained by the people that you like and *gasp* people you don't like. Just because you don't like someones looks, personality, or world views, that doesn't mean that should stop you from enjoying a good movie.

Hooray for good movies!
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10:11AM on 04/30/2015
I can't stand this woman and the impending doom her and Feig will have on one of our most beloved franchises.
But I'll call it a wash because I enjoy Law and it will be nice to see the Stath getting a bit back to his roots from the Lock, Stock days...I can only imagine the smart ass he'll be...
I can't stand this woman and the impending doom her and Feig will have on one of our most beloved franchises.
But I'll call it a wash because I enjoy Law and it will be nice to see the Stath getting a bit back to his roots from the Lock, Stock days...I can only imagine the smart ass he'll be...
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6:00AM on 04/30/2015

This is a greatly enjoyable read

I had absolutely NO interest in this one, but after reading the review now my mind has definitely changed. Thanks. Paul should write more reviews and articles, out of all the writers of this site I enjoy his writings the most (Bumbray is a close second)
I had absolutely NO interest in this one, but after reading the review now my mind has definitely changed. Thanks. Paul should write more reviews and articles, out of all the writers of this site I enjoy his writings the most (Bumbray is a close second)
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4:02AM on 04/30/2015
7/10 is surprisingly much better than I expected.
7/10 is surprisingly much better than I expected.
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1:05AM on 04/30/2015
McCarthy I had enough of after two films, but this I must see. Statham playing the fool. Serafinovich playing the howling lover and Byrne playing the villainess, I will watch that.
McCarthy I had enough of after two films, but this I must see. Statham playing the fool. Serafinovich playing the howling lover and Byrne playing the villainess, I will watch that.
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+4
12:27AM on 04/30/2015
This will pey be another Feig movie where the trailer looks comical but the movie is extremely middle of the road.

Also i have a bit of Schadenfreude... i want this to fail to take some of the wind out of the terrible Ghostbusters movie he is doing
This will pey be another Feig movie where the trailer looks comical but the movie is extremely middle of the road.

Also i have a bit of Schadenfreude... i want this to fail to take some of the wind out of the terrible Ghostbusters movie he is doing
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-12
12:16AM on 04/30/2015

I hate to admit it...

I saw the trailer for this before Furious 7, and it doesn't look half as bad as I thought it'd be. The posters and the premise looked pretty bad, but the trailer was actually good for a few laughs, so maybe this will be better than expected.
I saw the trailer for this before Furious 7, and it doesn't look half as bad as I thought it'd be. The posters and the premise looked pretty bad, but the trailer was actually good for a few laughs, so maybe this will be better than expected.
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+14
12:04AM on 04/30/2015
This got a 7/10 and Avengers got an 8/10. Let that sink in for a moment.
This got a 7/10 and Avengers got an 8/10. Let that sink in for a moment.
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12:05AM on 04/30/2015
They're also two completely different movies. So, yeah, sunk in.
They're also two completely different movies. So, yeah, sunk in.
12:36AM on 04/30/2015
so do you have a point about that nick-o?
that this one doesnt deserve to be as close to the superhero-film? sounds like it does deserve it to me, and shirey isnt the only one to say so.
so do you have a point about that nick-o?
that this one doesnt deserve to be as close to the superhero-film? sounds like it does deserve it to me, and shirey isnt the only one to say so.
3:02AM on 04/30/2015
Thumbs up, when the writer of the review is the first to comment you know feelings have surfaced.

Thumbs up, when the writer of the review is the first to comment you know feelings have surfaced.

8:30AM on 04/30/2015
The reviewer liked the movie. As of this writing, so did 12 out of 12 other reviewers, according to Rotten Tomatoes. Has that sunk in yet, Nick-o?
The reviewer liked the movie. As of this writing, so did 12 out of 12 other reviewers, according to Rotten Tomatoes. Has that sunk in yet, Nick-o?
11:17AM on 04/30/2015
I was just pointing out a funny observation. Relax people! I'd actually give some of the Transformers movies a better review than some of the Marvel movies (Thor, IM3, etc). Gotta review each movie for what it is - I get that. I actually almost always enjoy Paul's reviews (and Bumbray's). Enjoy your Thursday people. Happy Avengers evening to all.
I was just pointing out a funny observation. Relax people! I'd actually give some of the Transformers movies a better review than some of the Marvel movies (Thor, IM3, etc). Gotta review each movie for what it is - I get that. I actually almost always enjoy Paul's reviews (and Bumbray's). Enjoy your Thursday people. Happy Avengers evening to all.
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