Comedy is tough to pull off, inherent subjectivity notwithstanding. Plenty find Kristen Wiig a hilarious person, I just don’t. Different strokes for different folks I guess. While I am a fan of espionage thrillers and the occasional raunchy comedy, Paul Feig’s SPY was not on my priority watch list. In recent years, comedy has been losing my interest. It is my more culturally ingrained friends that find modern comedies truly enjoyable, my inherent snobbishness preventing me from joining them a majority of the time, although there have been exceptions. I have not found Melissa McCarthy all that entertaining and I haven’t had the nerve to watch Feig’s Bridesmaids. When I won tickets to an advanced screening, I grudgingly accepted my mother’s request that I go with her.
Two hours later, I thanked her for inviting me with a huge face-breaking grin. That movie was more like it. Too many specialized-comedies have lost track of what makes situations funny; the Spy Hard franchise was never involving because the universe was so detached and ridiculous that no one person could get invested in any of the characters. There needs to be grounding in the story in order to truly work. No comedy can be 100% goofy and work; at least unless you’re AIRPLANE! Within the film, I felt invested because I felt the comedy to be organic, not forced like too many comedies seem. Whenever Susan Cooper (McCarthy) was in a dangerous espionage situation, I felt the stakes at hand. And whenever something silly happened, it was realistically implemented.
One of the funniest scenes early on details Cooper’s training at The Farm, where she gets a little too into the more ultra-violent aspects of spy training. In context, she’s currently a relatively mild-mannered analyst, but the archive footage they pull detailing her pre-analyst days suggest anything but. Even the fight scenes are immersive and bloody as James Bond movies won’t go. Bravo, Feig.
The rest of the cast is in rare form. Of note is British comedienne Miranda Hart as Cooper’s buddy in the office who later joins her mission as a partner-in-spying. She’s sweet, off-handedly vulgar, and cheerfully incompetent at most everything except eating delicious sweets. Jason Statham is a great treat, satirizing his action hero persona by inserting an overdue bumbling riff on his well-known roles in the past, at one point bragging about the things he’s done on missions, lifted from his films Transporter 3 and Crank: High Voltage. Jude Law’s extended cameo was suitably charming in the best audition for a James Bond movie since Layer Cake. And Rose Byrne is equally menacing and seductive as the villianess. My only real complaints are 1) Allison Janney was underused and 2) Bobby Cannavale’s tan looked uber-fake. Other than that, it’s a good flick. Check it out!