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Movie Review of the Week- “Spy”

Movie Review of the Week- “Spy”
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Photo: Larry Horricks

By Alison Bailes

It was clear as soon as “Bridesmaids” became a pop culture phenomenon in 2011 that Melissa McCarthy was destined for leading role stardom. But aside from “The Heat” when she was successfully paired with Sandra Bullock, her efforts so far have been weak at best (case in point “Identity Thief” and “Tammy” which were groaningly awful).

Luckily “Spy” reteams her with writer/director Paul Feig who helmed “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat” and he is in firm control of his material here. He has written a very funny spy spoof that just happens to feature a female protagonist, a woman who is smart, inventive and bold. You don’t see too many of those headlining movies these days.

What’s even better is that Feig wrote a sidekick role for Miranda Hart, a British comedienne who is the perfect yin to McCarthy’s absurd yang. Hart, well known across the pond and for fans of PBS’s “Call the Midwife” doesn’t fit the Hollywood leading lady parameters, and has turned her differences into a positive. She greatly enhances this laugh out loud espionage caper.

Aping the international globetrotting and debonair milieus of the best Bond films, “Spy” features McCarthy as Susan Cooper, a CIA desk agent whose days at the office are anything but humdrum. She’s the voice inside field agent Bradley Fine’s (Jude Law) earpiece, guiding him through dangerous, deadly missions. Law looks the part in his tailored tux even though his American accent seems a bit shaky as he delivers his quippy, nonchalant dialogue. On the trail of a stolen nuclear device, Fine meets his match in Russian arch-villainess Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) who dispatches him as Cooper helplessly watches on. Suddenly Cooper is needed to go undercover to “track and report” from a distance as all other field agents’ identities have been compromised.

Much of the humor comes from the disconnect between Cooper’s appearance and her abilities. Underestimated at every turn, Cooper surprises everyone, including herself and her supercilious boss played by Allison Janney. Her undercover identities amount to ugly wigs, cat sweaters and humiliating backstories. Her spy gadgets are disguised as hemorrhoid wipes and stool softener. McCarthy’s horrified reaction to these indignities is priceless and it’s not much of a stretch to realize that the CIA sees Cooper probably the same way as Hollywood once saw McCarthy….a middle-aged frump with Midwestern charm but no hope of real success.

I pretty much laughed from start to finish, although I wish Feig had turned down the bone-crunching and neck snapping sound effects, but maybe he was making a point about excessive violence on screen these days. Jason Statham, playing a rival CIA superspy, spoofs his own hard man action hero and displays a welcome comic side. Rose Byrne delivers her withering putdowns with just the right amount of indifferent scorn to Cooper, who dishes it right back. Together they are comedy gold…their talent as big as their hideous hair pieces.





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