ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

Analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) and Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) are a CIA team looking to track down a target who knows the location of a nuclear football device they are looking for. After Fine accidentally kills the target without getting the location, the agency learns that the target’s daughter Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) might also know the location of the device. But when Susan discovers that Boyanov knows the identities of the agency’s top secret agents, among them Fine and the over-confident Rick Ford (Jason Statham), she, not being a compromised identity, volunteers as a field agent to track down Rayna and her Italian playboy contact Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale).

Nothing has spoken up louder and clearer than how much comedy has sucked in 2015 (not that 2014 was any better). Get Hard, Hot Pursuit, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Mortdecai, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Unfinished Business, The Wedding Ringer – good Lord, we still have half a year left! So far there’s been one comedy (unless you wanna count dramedies like Adult Beginners and Welcome to Me) that delivered this year and that’s What We Do in the Shadows. However, that’s a small film that was only given a limited release (still made a modest profit of $7 million on a $1.5 million budget); the big studio comedies have led me to assume either they really are that shitty, or I’m just suffering from undiagnosed depression.

Thank God for Spy.

Though Melissa McCarthy has been one of the go-to comic actresses for very understandable reasons, her film career hasn’t been as consistent as her talent suggests. She stole the show in Bridesmaids and The Heat (both directed by Paul Feig) proved she could carry a film (a joint effort with Sandra Bullock), but while I didn’t hate Identity Thief or Tammy, they were still disappointments due to their weak scripts. Spy, however, allows McCarthy to bounce back from the less-than-stellar Tammy.

The key here is writer/director Paul Feig. The films don’t lie; her best onscreen work have all been Feig films. I don’t think he makes McCarthy funny. McCarthy is a genuinely talented actress in her own right, but a director’s ability to bring the best out of someone that’s already inherently talented should never be underestimated. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are both tremendously talented comic actors, but you most definitely felt director Edgar Wright’s absence in Paul.

Save a couple jokes that fall flat, such as a recurring bit involving pests inside the CIA facilities that occurs once or twice more than it needs to, Feig has put together a non-stop laugh riot parody of the spy genre. While not a full-on spoof like Leslie Nielsen’s Naked Gun trilogy, Spy is more a broad comedy version of Edgar Wright’s dry humored “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy, which pushes the bounds of satire without falling into the spoof camp. Also, much like Wright showed a skill for action choreography in his trilogy, Feig shows he’s no slouch when it comes to directing action sequences, particularly a kitchen fight between McCarthy and Nagris Fakhri that’s quick and frantic, yet surprisingly well-choreographed.

It’s been stated that Feig has been dying to direct a Bond film, yet no one has ever taken the Bridesmaids director seriously. His ability in handling the action as well as he does here might change everyone’s minds.

Like in Bridesmaids, Feig assembles a talented cast that are all delivering laughs at the top of their game. What differentiates this McCarthy or the McCarthy from The Heat from the McCarthy we had in Identity Thief and Tammy is that there’s substance to her character. It’s not just the Rebel Wilson schtick of “Ha! She’s heavy… well, isn’t that funny.” Feig gives her a few self-deprecating jokes, and McCarthy’s always fully game in poking fun at herself, but there’s more to her character Susan Cooper. Just like her character Shannon Mullins from The Heat, McCarthy’s Cooper is a goof at times, but she’s still highly skilled at her job, which comes at much surprise to her coworkers (Allison Janney’s CIA director comments she was impressed by a skills-revealing video of Cooper almost to the point of uploading it to YouTube).

But it’s not just the McCarthy show here. McCarthy hits it out of the park, but she’s surrounded by a great supporting cast that can go toe-to-toe with her and she’s a generous enough lead to let them sometimes steal the spotlight (you’ll never hear anyone deliver a line like “I will fuck you” as funny as Peter Serafinowicz does). Ever since her supporting turn in Bridesmaids, Rose Byrne has gotten better and better (as disappointing as Neighbors may have been, she was one of its strengths), and by now is just as good in comedy as she is in her more dramatic work, such as the TV series Damages. Byrne plays bitchy to perfection, and she proves to be just as much as comic force in this film as McCarthy does, especially in their scenes together.

Jason Statham is somewhat of a revelation here. We’ve seen him do funny before in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but more in a cool, charismatic way, the Guy Ritchie style of funny. Prior to Spy, I hadn’t seen him do funny like this, and he’s fantastic. Be it his dogged belief that a “Face-Off” machine actually exists, or his exaggerated recounting of all his dangerous exploits, Statham is obviously riffing on the macho action star types he always gets cast as. It’s a performance made all the more entertainingly over-the-top in that he delivers his absurd lines as straight-faced macho as any other action character he’s played before.

This guy needs to be doing comedy more.

By now, it’s been confirmed that both Feig and McCarthy are locked in for the new Ghostbusters reboot. Naturally, I was skeptical; after all, as the good Lord once told Moses, “Take off your sandals for the place you are standing is hallowed ground.” But with this now making it three strong comedy collaborations for the two of them, my curiosity about what they bring to the reboot has most certainly been raised.

Combining hearty laughs, a terrific cast and some effectively directed action, it might not be saying much to say that Spy is one of the funniest films of 2015, but it is further proof that team Feig/McCarthy is a comic duo worth banking on. If following up Bridesmaids with The Heat wasn’t enough to prove it to you, three back-to-back-to-back laugh-out-loud comedies should be enough to place writer/director Paul Feig in Judd Apatow/Edgar Wright territory as one of the best comedy filmmakers of the 21st century.

I give Spy an A (★★★½).

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