Wednesday, July 1, 2015


I love a good comedy. Some of my favorite movies are comedies. Caddyshack, Airplane!, Son in Law, Burn After Reading… so many that are not only funny but work on multiple levels. One thing that really gets me down is when a movie has the potential to be sidesplittingly funny but ends up falling flat on its face. Spy is one of those films.

The handler (Melissa McCarthy) of a CIA super spy (Jude Law) is placed in the field to uncover the details surrounding his death.
That set-up is rife with possibilities. Fish out of water – one of the most enduring plot devices ever conceived. With a proven comedic actress in place as the lead along with a very impressive supporting cast backing her up this flick had every chance to become the next comedy classic. Nope. Somehow the makers of this movie manage to muck it up at every turn.

How did it all go wrong? Let’s start with writer/director Paul Feig. He’s made two of the most popular female-centric comedies to come out within the past five years – Bridesmaids and The Heat. These were box-office juggernauts, especially Bridesmaids which went on to garner Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Melissa McCarthy. He attracts great talent and even has amassed a troupe of dedicated actors and actresses that work with him film after film. He must be doing something right, right? Well, I haven’t liked a single one of his films. I thought Bridesmaids was overlong and overhyped, filled with unlikable characters whose moods changed faster than the attention of a hyperactive puppy. I turned The Heat off after the first 20 minutes because it was flat out annoying the fuck out of me. No joke.
Feig’s idea behind Spy is solid. It’s a parody of James Bond flicks with the people who are the super spies being the clueless ones and those backing them up being the real heroes. Like I said, so many possibilities. Feig instead decided to develop the concept as a directionless and obnoxiously crass dud that is on par with The Hangover, Part 3. There is very little that works. The characters all have filthy mouths and say “fuck” at least 4 times per minute, characters are written as unlikable idiots (with two exceptions), the action scenes are terrible and none of the comedy works. It’s embarrassing to see this much raw talent wasted, yet Feig keeps getting more and more high profile projects that get worse and worse in my eyes. He doesn’t seem to know what comedy is, let alone how to make a movie that feels whole. Every scene is disconnected from the one before it and comes across as a convoluted mess that was rapidly thrown together in the editing room. In Hollywood it’s all about the dolla dolla bills, y’all and somehow he keeps raking them in.

And what was up with Feig’s overly rapey male characters who were always grabbing McCarthy’s boobs? What makes it worse is that McCarthy’s character seems to be okay with it every time it happens which is a lot. It was creepy as hell and severely out of place. I hope this isn’t another story of a filmmaker’s weird fetish coming out to play in his work like Quentin Tarantino and his obsession with women’s feet.
I actually used to like Melissa McCarthy until her poor choice of projects tainted her forever in my eyes (ever see the trainwreck known as Tammy?). I used to watch Gilmore Girls back in the day and I found her to be completely adorable and charming as Sookie the chef. When she would pop up in random movies I would smile because she had a fun quirkiness that really did it for me. As the years went on and her roles expanded, culminating in her big break out with Bridesmaids, she really began to lose her luster. Now she comes across as a female Chris Farley whose claim to fame is by screaming obscenities and doing “fat person fall down, go boom” pratfalls. When Spy first started I thought I was seeing a return to form from McCarthy, but as the movie spun on those dreams came crashing down. She seemed to be putting her all into her part of Susan Cooper, but there was nothing there to begin with so it was all for naught. It’s a shame because I know she’s talented and is so much better than this kind of crap.

The main supporting cast sucks as well. Jude Law (Side Effects) looks lost for the whole movie, clearly out of his element as the suave but oblivious spy Bradley Fine. The usually capable Rose Byrne (Insidious: Chapter 2) doesn’t seem to understand comedy either and comes off as straight up annoying.  Even Allison Janney, who has absolutely killed it in comedies like 10 Things I Hate About You and Juno, is just phoning it in.
The story is a jumble of random scenes, most of the characters are asshats, it’s not funny, the action blows… what’s left to like? Well, I did state that not all the characters were asshats. In fact, the only reason to watch this flick is due to the efforts of two supporting actors – Jason Statham (Homefront) and Miranda Hart (Hyperdrive). Statham, who I am a big fan of, basically parodies himself at every turn as the increasingly unstable rogue spy Rick Ford. Some of the batshit crazy dialogue that comes out of his mouth, delivered completely seriously, is absolutely hysterical (“Nothing kills me. I'm immune to 179 different types of poison. I know because I ingested them all at once when I was deep undercover in an underground poison-ingesting crime ring.”). And Miranda Hart is in the charming and overly likable position that I found McCarthy in back on Gilmore Girls as fellow handler Nancy. Her character is written as genuinely funny because she doesn’t come from a place of faux edginess like the rest. She’s adorably awkward and just plain fun to watch.

Two bright spots aside, Spy flat out sucks. None of it really works and there is a strange scene-to-scene disconnect that kills any sort of momentum that there might have been at the start. If this is the future of comedy I think we might be in trouble. The worst part of it is that Feig and McCarthy have teamed up once again for the reboot of Ghostbusters. My faith in that project is at zero after witnessing this epic clusterfuck.

1 out of 5

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