Ben Oliver

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I look like someone’s homophobic aunt!
10 October 2015

A desk-bound CIA analyst (Melissa McCarthy) gets placed in the field after a list of active agents is compromised, the theory being she won’t be recognised. She is sent to track down a nuclear weapon hidden in a suitcase.

Spy has all the hallmarks of a Paul Feig comedy; a female lead and a fresh take on an old genre. Luckily what worked for him in Bridesmaids also, to a large extent, works here. Somehow he manages to avoid making a straight up spoof of a spy movie, while at the same time still toying with the tropes we are all so familiar with.

If we must talk about parody, it’s perhaps more accurate to say that Feig is having a jab a spy-spoof films rather than spy films themselves. He’s not only having fun at James Bond’s expense, he’s also having a crack at Johnny English.

The witty script is bolstered by a strong, self-aware cast. McCarthy has shown she can be funny in the right film (so far only Paul Feig films…) and she quickly gets us on her side. We’re laughing with her more than at her, which makes Spy feel like it’s going on more than just cheap shots at her expense.

The supporting cast are equally talented - Rose Byrne is hilarious as the villainess; a spoilt, rich brat all grown up. Jason Statham plays it straight down the line and does his usual cockney gangster thing; in this case the contrast with the sterile CIA environment is very funny. Of course he’s mocking himself slightly but he makes no attempt to wink at the audience, it’s pure deadpan, Statham-style.

There’s the typical boring action sequences, always a weak point in the genre, and the film is overly long (2 hours 10 is a lot to ask of us, no matter how funny), but all in all this is a rare example of a laugh-out-loud funny & surprising spy comedy.