Sunday, June 21, 2015

SPY (2015)

Written & Directed by Paul Feig

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. June 9, 2015 5:20PM

Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig together have altered the long-held perception of women in comedy. Mr. Feig has proven that if it's well-written and capable talent is brought on board, people will happily pay to see comedies with female leads while the very funny Ms McCarthy shows that she can be a major box-office draw even if she's not a size two.

They first came together in the bridal nightmare comedy, "Bridesmaids", with the actress in an Oscar-nominated supporting role and the film became a surprise break-out hit. In their next outing, McCarthy was given a bigger part and teamed-up with movie-star, Sandra Bullock in the female-buddy cop caper, "The Heat" and scored another home run. Their latest winning collaboration is "Spy", a spoof of the James Bond action-thrillers with McCarthy, front and center, becoming an unlikely secret agent. The film successfully merges together those common espionage staples involving fancy gadgets, exotic locations, thrilling car chases and bone-shattering brawls with suburban cat-lady disguises, wacky antics and insanely funny gags.

Susan Cooper (McCarthy) sits behind a desk at CIA headquarters as the eyes and ears for agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) when he's out fighting the bad guys. Holding a secret crush on the handsome and debonair Fine, the plain and unremarkable Susan can only dream that he would ever notice her as a woman or that she would have a chance to work by his side as an agent.

After his attempt to track down a nuclear bomb that will be sold to Italian gangster, Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale) ended with the accidental death of his target, Boyanov (Raad Rawi), Agent Fine sets out to find his daughter, Rayna (Rose Byrne) who may know of it's location. But she's on to him, as well as the identities of other CIA agents, and takes Fine out for revenge.

Since the cover is blown for the field agents, Susan volunteers to go on the mission to follow Rayna and locate the bomb. Her boss, Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) is opposed to the idea but with few options and time running out, she agrees so long as Susan doesn't make contact.

It should be no shocker that Susan Cooper doesn't follow those instructions once she reaches her Paris destination and gets herself thrown in the mix. The inexperienced spy cons her way in to the inner circle of the deadly, big-haired, Rayna and travels to Rome and Budapest with her as she makes final arrangements to sell the bomb. Susan must find it's whereabouts before her identity is discovered and receives help from her friend, Nancy (Miranda Hart) back at the CIA headquarters, a contact in Italy, Aldo (Peter Serafinowicz) who is your standard stereotypical Italian and the abrasive fellow agent, Rick Ford (Jason Statham), disgruntled and going rogue because he wasn't given this assignment, stalks her throughout the mission.

Feig's script follows a faithful blueprint of your average spy adventure but the brief bursts of graphic gore feel out of place for a zany comedy (even the 007 films keep the bloodshed at PG-13 levels). But what the director is really after is to flip the script on expectations and take us on a humorously thrilling ride from a female point-of-view and not from one that looks like Angelina Jolie. After the misstep of "Tammy", the jumbled mess of a comedy created by McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone (who pops up here in a cameo), Feig guides the actress back on to solid ground as he's able to rein her manic energy in to coherent focus. McCarthy, with her sweet cherub face and the foul mouth of a demented sailor, doesn't fail to deliver the laughs but also brings warmth and quirky charm to help flesh out her character.

There are plenty of Brits filling out the roles here (and our Aussie, Ms Byrne, hilarious as our Bulgarian villainess) with the towering, Ms Hart, who is a comic sensation back home in England, perfectly giving Americans a taste of what they're missing. But it's Mr. Statham that surprises with sharp comedic skills. The no-nonsense action star hasn't had too many chances to show that he's actually quite funny and hopefully he'll get more opportunities to show that off.

"Spy" brings us plenty of thrills, danger but mostly giddy fun and that's exactly what you want in your summer popcorn fare. The good news is that Ms McCarthy and Mr. Feig are joining forces once again with an all-female reboot of "Ghostbusters". If it's anything like "Spy", I think it's likely we're in for another hilarious treat