Spy comedy hits all the right notes as star-studded cast check egos at the door and join in belly laughs

MoviesBy Esther McCarthy
Spy comedy hits all the right notes as star-studded cast check egos at the door and join in belly laughs

IT SEEMS that director Paul Feig and leading lady Melissa McCarthy bring out the best in each other.

He cast her in a star-making turn as the terrifying Megan in Bridesmaids and made her a great sparring partner for Sandra Bullock in the slight but funny The Heat. 

They’re among McCarthy’s funniest performances in a career run that has been undeniably patchy. 

It feels like lots of filmmakers don’t quite know what to do with their unconventional leading lady. 

But Feig does — and he’s helped along by his own sparkling script that provides plenty of bellylaughs, most of them put-downs delivered by McCarthy and her co-star Rose Byrne. 

Jason Statham has a riot sending up his own persona as an action hero who’s a bit of a knuckle head. And even Jude Law makes a rare trip into broad comedy as a swarthy CIA agent. 

McCarthy dials down the brawn to refreshing affect as Susan Cooper, a desk-bound systems analyst at the CIA. She’s put her own promising career as a field agent to one side to work as a right-hand woman to Bradley Fine (Law), working as his ‘eyes’ on dangerous assignments. 

But when he’s taken off the grid by a gang who plan to sell a deadly nuclear weapon, his boss (Alison Janney) is dismayed to discover that her entire cell has been identified and compromised.

The solution? Train up the anonymous Cooper and send her to Europe to track down those selling the nuke. 

This decision comes much to the chagrin of special agent Rick Ford (Statham), a rogue and an egotist who loves to talk up how tough he is and who feels he’s the man for the job. 

Everyone’s on song here, but Rose Byrne’s supporting role as an upmarket arms dealer is a real pleasure. She’s super as Raina Boyanov, the aristocratic daughter of a

Russian arms dealer who’s ready to sell the bomb to the highest bidder. The put-downs between her and McCarthy rank among the funniest scenes in the film. 

Like all good comedy, there’s a bit of humanity going on here too. Cooper is portrayed as a single woman, prone to unrequited crushes, who feels that some of life’s opportunities have passed her by, but still faces each day with professionalism and humour. 

McCarthy embraces a running joke that sees her undercover profiles selected as sad and lonely women. 

The Verdict: 
A witty comedy bettered by an up-for-it cast. 

Spy (15A) 4/5 STARS