I’ve been a fan of Melissa McCarthy since Gilmore Girls and while it’s been great to see her get some recognition on her own, I haven’t always been a fan of her movies. I like a good comedy as much as the next girl, but bathroom humor and fat jokes just aren’t my thing. Given that, I was pleased to find that Spy (2015) elevated itself beyond the college frat level and really allowed McCarthy to shine, both as a comedian and as a kick-ass lady.
McCarthy’s Susan Cooper is, at first, treated as your typical single 40-year-old lady. She’s relegated to a desk job at the CIA where she serves as the voice in the ear of the studly Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). She, of course, has the hots for him (I mean, who wouldn’t?) and he treats her like a maiden aunt, offering her hideous jewelry as a thank you gift and assuming she has cats. When Fine finds himself on the wrong side of a gun, held by Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), Susan offers to be the one to go undercover to track Sergio DeLuca (Bobby Canavale), the arms broker with terrorist ties whom Boyanov has contacted. After super spy Rick Ford (Jason Statham) throws a hissy fit and quits the agency, Susan gets her wish.
What I found wonderful about this movie was that it was a just takedown of the uber-macho action movie genre. I love action movies and Statham is one of my favorite players, but the movies are undoubtedly formulaic. In Spy we see a character who does not fit the chiseled Statham-esque build get to be as intelligent and as physically imposing as any of her male counterparts. Susan’s several fight scenes may have been a touch unbelievable, but no more so than anything Statham himself takes on in the Transporter series. Instead of serving as a detriment, that incredulity is part of a good action movie. With Statham being one of the top actors in this genre today, his turn here as a caricature of himself was refreshing. I laughed so hard at his stone-faced recital of all the ridiculous stunts he’s pulled.
Although I ultimately found the continuous fight scenes a bit repetitive, Spy does not otherwise disappoint in the action or comedy arena. It’s fantastic that Susan taps into a skill set and that others cannot help but take her seriously in the end. It may be a story we’ve seen before, but not like this and not with someone like McCarthy. I only wish she would take on more movies that allow her to be the smart, talented woman that she clearly is.