Sunday, June 7, 2015

Spy

2.5/4

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Bobby Cannevale

Rated R for Language Throughout, Violence, and Some Sexual Content including Brief Graphic Nudity

Jay Leno was fond of saying that the worst thing you could do to a comedy is to throw money at it.  I thought about that a lot as I was watching this movie.  There are definitely some funny bits in this movie, but Paul Feig, the wearer of many hats behind the film, ends up making a legitimate entry of the genre he seeks to parody.  While it's certainly possible to create a spy movie that's fresh, original and never stops poking fun at itself ("True Lies" is a tremendous example), Feig lacks James Cameron's talent in both writing and directing.

Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is a CIA agent, although she stays behind a desk offering help to the suave, debonair Bradley Fine (Law).  She holds a torch for him, although he's far too self-absorbed to realize it.  Tragedy strikes when Bradley is killed, and the villainous Rayna Boyanov has stolen all the identities of all of the CIA's active agents.  Rayna intends to sell a nuclear weapon that her father acquired, and Susan volunteers to stop her.  Of course, nothing goes according to plan.

The plot of the movie is Spy Movie 101 (this idea was used as recently as two years ago when "Skyfall" came out).  Using such an exhausted idea would be fine if the film was at least consistently funny, but aside from a few funny moments every now and then, it's just a generic spy comedy that would be at home in the dregs of August.

Given a good script, Melissa McCarthy can be hilarious.  She stole scenes and walked off with an Oscar nomination for "Bridesmaids," and was just as funny in "The Heat," which came out last year.  Here, she gives it a game try, but the material is so weak that she sometimes flounders.  McCarthy needs someone to play off of, and "Spy" doesn't really give her that.  Her biggest co-star, Miranda Hart, fails to make much of an impression, despite the role being written specifically for her.

McCarthy's higher-wattage co-stars are a bit disappointing.  Rose Byrne chews the scenery in a similar way to Sarah Michelle Gellar in "Cruel Intentions," but the script lets her down.  Still, there's no denying there's some amusement from watching her perform.  Jude Law attempts to parody his pretty boy image, but his performance is flat.  I don't know if it's the American accent (which he can do...see "The Talented Mr. Ripley" if you don't believe me) or what, but this is worst performance he's ever given.  Jason Statham is more successful at skewering his British tough guy image, but many of his scenes run on too long.  After hearing one or two of his outrageous exploits, the humor dies off.  I was wondering if Seth Rogen rewrote some of his lines.

Paul Feig does better with smaller, tighter comedies.  In an attempt to parody the parody (and often parodied), Feig loses control of the film.  It's also far too long; shave some of the bits that prop up the thin plot, and you'd have a better movie.

At best, "Spy" is best left for home viewing.

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