Review: ‘Spy’

'Spy'
‘Spy’
Spy movies don’t get much sillier than Spy, which nonetheless proves to be far more entertaining than its generic title might suggest.

Melissa McCarthy stars as Susan Cooper, a 10-year veteran of the CIA who is happy to work in an underground bunker feeding information to field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Mild-mannered and self-effacing, Susan nurses a crush on the dashing and highly-regarded Fine, but things go wrong on a mission and Fine ends up dead.

Susan is shattered, yet she doesn’t hesitate to volunteer herself to help track down Eastern European criminal Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), who killed Fine, plans to sell a nuclear device, and also claims to know the secret identities of all the top CIA agents. Her crusty boss Crocker (Allison Janney) reluctantly agrees to send Susan to Europe because her identity has not been compromised, but hot-tempered field agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) is infuriated and quits in protest.

Once Susan is in Europe, her gangly friend Nancy (Miranda Hart) becomes the voice in her ear. But Ford shows up on the scene, redefining “loose cannon” and threatening to upset the agency’s plans, and Susan soon ignores Crocker’s orders to restrict herself to ‘tracking and reporting.’ Events quickly spiral out of control, leading to a series of escalating adventures across Europe that reveal Susan to be far more capable than even she might have imagined.

One of the great delights of Spy is that writer/director Paul Feig is well-aware of the conventions of espionage movies. The James Bond series is clearly a primary source for parody — especially in an early sequence when Susan finds that the the gadgets offered to her are quite limited — but Feig easily draws from a host of other spy thrillers in concocting his characters and plot twists.

The action sequences are nothing special, but this is the rare spy movie where the characters are far more entertaining to watch. McCarthy’s performance as Susan Cooper is superb; she navigates the agent’s blossoming personality with great precision and dexterity, and Feig has written the role with subtlety and grace.

Jason Statham stands out among the supporting players; he’s playing a stereotypical, swaggering stud who’s more than a bit dense, all traits that the actor nails, along with acing an early, very long speech that is blistering with profanities and dementedly funny. Miranda Hart supplies plenty of laughs with her comic timing as Susan’s best friend, while Peter Serafinowicz contributes a charming turn as a highly stereotypical Italian agent.

Because it begins with an extremely ridiculous setup, Spy establishes itself as a comedy that should not be taken seriously. Between the one-liners and the broad physical gags, however, the movie nicely articulates positive messages about empowerment for everyone and the rightful place of women in traditionally male working environments.

Beyond that, Spy is jam-packed with as much humor as can possibly fit within its running time, making this one of the more entertaining adventures of the year.

The film opens wide throughout Dallas on Friday, June 5.

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