With a Bond-esque hero and big explosions, Spy takes the familiarity of the espionage thriller genre and turns it on its head with Melissa McCarthy as it’s star- and rightly so. Hilarious as Bradley Fine’s assistant, McCarthy’s acting is consistently the star of this film. With remarkable skills in combat and unlikely get-ups, McCarthy is a blast to watch as she rises from underdog to super spy, all while taking a bite out of the genre.
Which is not to say that the ensemble cast of the film doesn’t shine through as well- they certainly do. With Rose Bryne as the bird-like villain, Allison Janney as the CIA boss, and the handsy accent-switching Aldo (“like the shoe store!”), it’s a group effort that pays off marvelously in laughs. The one place that Spy doesn’t take many shots at, is the organization behind the operation, the CIA. Other than commenting on the workplace and an early use of drones to help Fine escape an impossible situation, there is no mention of the CIA’s intrusive surveillance, which seems like a bit of a waste.
What a relief that no one ends up the ‘Bond Girl’ here- for a brief moment, the film teases us when Fine invites Susan to dinner after her success. Instead, she turns him down in favor of a girls’ night, an example of what the film does well. Steven Rea captured it best when he wrote, “For all the over-the-top comedy, zigzagging chases, and choreographed fight scenes, Spy is very much a tale of female empowerment. The lead is a woman. Her boss is a woman. The antagonist is a woman. The best friend is a woman. And they all get their jobs done, while the men run around doing what men do—preening, pawing, getting in the way, and getting a better pay grade. There’s a point to be made, but it’s not belabored.”
And while there is much to praise and appreciate about this movie, running time, at 120 minutes, is not one of them. Some of the scenes could also have used some shortening- like the scene towards the beginning with the cupcake necklace in a ring box at dinner- a cute, but overplayed move that just misses the funny-awkward mark. Nevertheless, Spy is a nice answer to the naysayers who believed that women couldn’t carry an action film.
A version of this post originally appeared at The Collard Online, where you can see more of my work.