Riding it out6/10/2015
Television spots for Melissa McCarthy’s new movie “Spy” advertise the film as “this year’s best reviewed comedy.” As it turns out, that is actually true. Head over to Rotten Tomatoes and you will find, as of this writing, 150 different critics from around the globe who are ready and eager to tell you that piss is rain.
In “Spy,” McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a CIA agent who has been relegated to a supporting role, assisting super agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). After Fine is killed during a mission to find a (stolen, or homemade and hidden) nuke, the CIA puts Cooper back out in the field, as she is the only active operative in the agency whose identity has not been compromised by bad girl Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne).
The ensuing hour-and-a-half is some of the most poorly paced, tediously written, patently unfunny tripe this side of an Adam Sandler film. There are a couple of moments in the film that do actually manage to be genuinely funny, but they pass quickly, and the film resumes its grim task of getting you to the end of this story, which features one unsurprising plot twist, no character growth and a nice moment where McCarthy finds a sisterly bond with an international terrorist.
The supporting cast does its best, with Allison Janney and Jason Statham as CIA Director Elaine Crocker and agent-gone-rogue Rick Ford, respectively. But Janney’s character is a one-note humor vacuum, while Statham’s character seems to genuinely get dumber and more over the top as the film progresses. Law probably turns in the best effort of the lot, as his Fine is equal parts Daniel Craig’s James Bond and, well, Roger Moore’s James Bond. A nice meld between action panache and low-grade smarm.
But the biggest liability in the film is, of course, McCarthy. Whether or not she is funny can be chalked up to a matter of opinion. Whether or not she is a physical specimen cannot. In fact, this lack of physical prowess is played up in her other films, most notably a scene in 2014’s dreadful “Tammy,” where she runs from two police officers, and the cops only have to lightly jog a couple of feet before recapturing her. And yet “Spy” is a surprisingly physical role that — comedy or not — clearly requires more than McCarthy is physically capable of delivering. Five times during the film, we are treated to scenes of a bad guy running away, gamely pursued by a heavily shuffling McCarthy, only to be caught in the next frame. One laborious chase is followed by McCarthy’s lone fight scene, which makes ample use of digital tricks and slow motion, most likely to hide the fact that McCarthy and her opponent are moving so slowly they could be underwater.
Nothing about “Spy” is particularly good. The rare laughs that the film coaxed out were sparse, and there is nothing about the rest of the story that feels meaty enough to keep anyone’s interest. Too often the writers will fall back on “it’s supposed to be funny,” as an excuse for half-baked story lines, and “Spy” is no different. The film feels like it does not know if it wants to be a straight action flick or a McCarthy-driven comedy vehicle, so it then tries to do both at once and winds up accomplishing very little of either. CV