Overview: When CIA Agent and all around heartthrob Bradley Fine is removed from the line of duty, quiet, reserved Analyst Susan Cooper offers herself up to go undercover and take down an infamous arms dealer and save the world from nuclear destruction. 2015, distributed by 20th Century Fox, 120 minutes, rated R.
Finally a Bride: Let’s face it, Paul Feig knows female comedy. As much as I wish the funniest female led comedies of the last five years were also written and directed by women, this guy has officially snagged three of those top spots in my book, all of which showcase the comedic skills of Melissa McCarthy. Feig continues to bring out the best in McCarthy’s brand of funny, honing her abrasive personality and tendency toward physical comedy and directing that energy in a way that’s more focused and slightly more subtle and with more depth (think Bridesmaids) than much of the work she does without him (think Tammy).
Fans of McCarthy have been clamoring for her turn in a leading role since she stole every scene she stepped on to in 2011’s Bridesmaids. In 2013 Feig gave McCarthy significantly more screen time in The Heat, but Bullock was really the main protagonist for the storyline, and McCarthy’s character was largely reminiscent of the one she played in Bridesmaid, the rough around the edges hardass who uses humor to disguise her insecurities and sensitive side. Last year McCarthy’s husband gave her a shot as the headliner in Tammy, which was just shy of being a total train-wreck, pigeon-holing McCarthy into the same cookie cutter persona she couldn’t seem to break out of.
Susan Cooper Conquers: Enter Spy, the film and the character Melissa McCarthy deserves. The first half of this film sets Susan Cooper up as a shy, demure, lovestruck desk drone who is head over heels for her partner, who appears to be leaps and bounds out of his league. Cooper gives us coy, but chuckle-worthy comedy during this stretch, dropping just enough subtle jokes to keep the audience interested and fairly certain (if skeptically so) about where the film is headed. All signs point to Susan Cooper’s turn as an undercover agent in the field to unfold like a Chris Farley movie, more accurately, like Bill Murray in 1998’s The Man Who Knew Too Little. We’ve been there, done that.
But about 45 minutes in, McCarthy blows the lid off the place, coming out guns ablazing as a totally badass spy chick with enough wit, confidence, and charisma to take down anyone who stands in her way. She completely owns this film from this point on, making all the groundwork instantly transform into a satisfactory build up to one of the best second halves in any film this year and without a doubt the best comedy released in recent memory. Every joke lands exactly where it’s supposed to, every laugh is earned, and every scene is used to maximum capacity, causing me to belly laugh so hard I was gleefully stomping my foot on the ground and slapping my knee.
A Worthy Opponent: A review of this film can’t go without mentioning another fantastic turn by Rose Byrne. It’s surprising more people didn’t take notice after she struck comedic gold with her woman-child persona in Neighbors that rivaled any performance by Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, or even her costar Seth Rogen. Byrne’s chemistry with McCarthy is a sight to behold, and it’s so completely refreshing to watch every male character sidelined to the role of a sidekick while these two kick major ass and prove that women can more than hold their own and hang with the boys in the world of comedy.