Melissa McCarthy a Large Hit in “Spy”
By Skip Sheffield
Now we know. Actress/comedian Melissa McCarthy can carry a movie all by herself. You can see her in action in “Spy.” McCarthy plays a mousy, overweight security analyst in the bowels of The Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia who is allowed to go to Europe to fight villains way out of her league.
Writer/director Paul Feig worked with McCarthy in the hit 2011 comedy “Bridesmaids.” He had the good sense to recognize an outsized talent to go along with the versatile performer’s pleasingly plus-size.
Let us count the ways Melissa McCarthy is funny. She may look demure, but she has an outrageous potty mouth. Evidently Feig encouraged her co-stars to match McCarthy F-bomb for F-bomb. This works particularly well with elegantly beautiful, refined, imperially slim Australian actress Rose Byrne, who plays bad girl Rayna Boyanov and curses like a longshoreman. The movie has a richly-deserved R-rating on language alone.
In “Spy” McCarthy is called upon to don a series of ridiculous disguises and wigs. She starts out as Susan Cooper, dowdy, dutiful drone of the CIA with a hopeless crush on hotshot agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law, cheerfully making fun of himself).
Fine goes missing early in Feig’s tall tale; on the trail of a purloined nuclear device that is said to be up for sale to the highest bidder. Susan volunteers to go undercover to recover the bomb and determine the fate of Fine.
An even more hotshot agent, Rick Ford (Jason Statham), minces no words in his contempt for Susan Cooper and the very idea she could be capable of doing what he routinely does fearlessly against all odds.
There is a whole platoon of stunt people credited at the end. No doubt many of them were assigned to cover Susan’s character, who fights like a mixed martial arts expert; pilots cars and motor scooters like Evel Knievel; clings to the landing gear of a helicopter; and flies through the air to land unscathed at sea or on land, to say nothing of dodging bullets from all manner of weapons. Susan is greatly aided in her escapades by Nancy, a fellow CIA analyst who shows up in the nick of time to save Susan’s life.
Nancy is played by Miranda Hart, a star in her own right in her native England. Hart is listed as 6-foot-1, but she appears even taller paired with relatively short McCarthy. If Feig thinks he has found a contemporary female comedy duo to emulate the comical mismatch of Laurel and Hardy, he may be on the right track.
The laughs are nearly continuous, with some groaners. Another Brit comic, Peter Serafinowicz, is hilarious as Italian rake Aldo, who can’t get enough of Susan Cooper’s ample charms. If you are looking for a no-brainer comedy that sets James Bond on his ear, this is a movie for you.