Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Film Review: Spy

Melissa McCarthy needs to divorce Paul Feig.

They aren't married, I'm talking about a professional divorce.

Feig is responsible for McCarthy's star-making turn in Bridesmaids.  He also directed her in Heat with Sandra Bullock and now Spy.  

If you saw the movie version of Get Smart staring Steve Carell, it is essentially the same movie: a CIA Analyst, who falls for a more attractive agent, finally gets a their shot to be field agent to track down a nuclear device and that agent bumbles their way to success.  There are 2 important differences:

1.  Spy has switched up the genders.
2.  It is much more vulgar.

Spy is R-Rated and it earns that rating completely.  The deaths are over-the-top graphic and the language would make a sailor blush.  This in and of itself is not a detriment.  The problem is that these changes don't make the movie funnier.

McCarthy's Susan Cooper is alternately sweet and demure and then fiery and fierce.  McCarthy can turn her character on a dime without skipping a beat and it doesn't feel forced.  She has shown time and again that she has a knack for physical comedy and does her best to wring as many laughs from this tired script.  The other performances are hit and miss.

Rose Byrne plays the main villain, Rayna Boyanov.  She is serviceably elitist and amoral, making her an easy person to hate.  Jude Law falters though as the James Bond-esque Bradley Fine.  Law makes the classic mistake of so many actors in comedy: he acts like he's in a comedy.  He makes goofy faces and goes big and broad in a clown-like way.  This is the exact opposite of co-star Jason Statham.

There is no question Statham steals the entire show.  He plays rogue CIA agent Rick Ford and Statham reads his lines and delivers his performance with the intensity of a hard-boiled action thriller.  And that makes him hysterical.  He constantly brags about his violent history ("I had to jump out of a building using only a trench coat as a parachute.  I broke both my legs and still had to pretend that I was in Cirque de Solei!"), and these rants turn out to be the best part of the movie.

With a little bit of tweaking, the movie would have worked great.  But Feig's humor gets a bit wearisome.  I prefer the shotgun approach to humor found in something like the Marx Brothers: you hit a joke and move on to another joke and hit the audience with lots of different types of humor so that something this.  Feig seems to prefer the long, belabored gag: tell a joke and keep riffing on it long after is normal so that the humor and absurdity become overwhelming.  This can pay off huge dividends like "Sideshow Bob and the rake" or "Peter Griffin and the leg injury."  But instead, what could be fresh jokes feel like beating a dead horse.  The jokes hang around awkwardly like a houseguest that refuses to leave.

And I don't mind violence in humor.  The bloody Black Knight scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is, to my mind, on of the funniest and most violent things I have ever seen.  But the reason why it works is that you can watch it over and over again and find the humor inside and beyond the shock.  But Feig's shock humor doesn't have much else going for it beyond the initial surprise. 

This is a real shame, because I got the distinct feeling that this cast could do something really special with the right script.  But everything here feels tired.

This does not bold well for Feig's Ghostbusters remake.

2 out of 5 stars

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