Movie Reviews

Published on June 27th, 2015 | by Leslie Erickson


McCarthy is comedic genius, but ‘Spy’ still seems forced

“I am so badass!” – Susan Cooper


Director: Paul Feig
Writer: Paul Feig
Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney
IMDB Link:

★ ★ ★

Melissa McCarthy might be one of the most unlikely actresses to portray the lead in a spy movie, but that’s the whole premise of her latest film.  When every other spy’s cover has been made, the agency has to resort to putting desk agent Susan Cooper in the field, and that’s when the fun begins. But this film, unlike director Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, doesn’t quite make it as a gut-busting, memorable comedy.

McCarthy’s genius, and yes, I believe she is a comedic genius, lies in her ability to deliver lines like she just thought of them. She does that some in the film, but like Heat, another Feig film, the laughs here depend too much on slapstick and middle-school humor. Rat poo, bats, and other creatures make an appearance, and there is the usual quota of fall down, knock down, and bodily excretion jokes we’ve come to expect in mediocre comedies. But when I found myself laughing most was when McCarthy would deliver one of her lines with that impromptu feel she has. And although, yes, Melissa McCarthy is a “badass,” it doesn’t carry through to her character in Spy.

Jude Law, who usually shines in anything he does, falls flat in this film. He never is convincing as the ultra-spy, and there is not much chemistry between him and McCarthy’s character. Rose Byrne as the villain is passable, but, again, not memorable, and Miranda Hart is a bit eager in her role as McCarthy’s sidekick. Even Allison Janney, an accomplished dramatic and comedic actor, turns in a performance that is forced. One of the few memorable performances is given by Peter Serafinowicz, whose minor character brightens the screen every time he’s on it.

In addition to a weak script and forgettable performances, the chemistry among all the characters never quite gels. In addition to the lack of it between McCarthy and Law, there is none between McCarthy’s character and Hart’s, or Byrne’s and anyone else’s. This cast of excellent actors should be great, but it never really comes together. In an attempt to elevate the film thematically, it makes a weak attempt to address issues of gender equality and body-shaming, but it does it in a clumsy and non-convincing way.

The reason films like Knocked Up or Bridesmaids are memorable and have become instant comedy classics is not because of the slapstick and crude humor they employ, but because of the wit and originality of their scripts accompanied by strong performances and chemistry among the actors. Unfortunately, Spy relies too heavily on those former elements and therefore becomes another one of those somewhat entertaining, forgettable films we’ve come to expect. There’s always hope the summer will produce one of those exceptional, memorable films, but Spy isn’t it.

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About the Author

Leslie Erickson is an avid cinephile and bibliophile living in Sioux City. From September through May, when not watching films or reading, she teaches literature and writing at Western Iowa Tech Community College. In the summer, she spends her time hiking and backpacking through the wilderness in one or another of the western states, occasionally taking breaks in air-conditioned theaters to catch a new release.

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