A great, shallow comedy
Spy is the perfect summary of what the comedy genre has become today. Is it bad? No. Quite the opposite. This is a great film. It's dialogue is hilarious, it is shot wonderfully, and holds up extraordinarily well as an action film too. The homages to James Bond in this film are great. Melissa McCarthy returns to form with style in what may be her best film yet. She has an undeniable chemistry with director Paul Feig, and can work brilliantly with any actor or actress he puts on the screen with her. Feig and McCarthy have gotten better with each film, and then when you throw in a phenomenal supporting cast? Featuring Rose Byrne (again) and Jason Statham who completely steal the show? This film is easily the best comedy of 2015 thus far. By a country mile.
So why am I not higher on this film? Because this film suffers from the same problems other films of the modern comedy genre suffer from: it's merely a surface-level comedy. As my "film connoisseur" has expanded, I've come to expect more from the comedy genre. I want my comedies to humor multiple senses. Directors like Judd Apatow and Paul Feig have allowed the genre to lose its way. Their films, as a whole, are lightly edited improv. That's it! Or, in the case of Spy, an improv'd action film. In the last ten years, the idea of the visual comedy has been all but lost in Hollywood. The one exception is Edgar Wright. If you watch Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Hot Fuzz, or The World's End, you will see a director using every sense, both visually and with dialogue, to create the funniest and most memorable comedies of the last 10 years. I've only seen Hot Fuzz once, a long time ago, and yet I still remember more about that film than I do Neighbors, which I saw far more recently. My favorite joke in the film Anchorman, other than the crazy cameos which don't count, is when Jack Black kicks Baxter off a bridge. It's a visual joke! Monty Python and the Holy Grail has one of the best visual jokes ever by having someone follow our heroes around everywhere with coconuts to simulate horses. This is just as memorable as having Michael Cera be bad-sh*t crazy in This is the End. And yet.....we don't see any visual humor in so many comedies today, and Spy is no exception. Spy, while funny, is just a silly comedy. Three days later I barely remember the film. I don't remember any of the jokes. I just remember that it was pretty funny. So, I couldn't help but feel a little empty leaving this film. Please, Hollywood, bring back visuals in our comedies! It might take a bit of (dare I say it?) ingenuity and creativity, but it'll be so worth it! This lack of memorability has made me struggle to watch This is the End again after the first time I watched it. Or Neighbors. Or The Heat. Despite having some very hilarious dialogue.
But look. It's not worth focusing on just this, especially when this movie does get so much else right. Spy is a great action film, just as good as any of them. I couldn't help but feel like this film was Paul Feig living out his dream of directing a Bond film. And Jude Law couldn't help but live up his role. His character might as well have been named James Bond, and he's clearly having a blast in it. Melissa McCarthy makes her character a badass, as she turns into a freaking boss once she's out in the field. It was awesome! There were no "Ha! You're fat." jokes to be found. Everyone was terrified of McCarthy, and she made quite a few of the characters in this film look like pansies. Jason Statham was hilarious. Who knew this great action star could be this funny? Well, he does this by making fun of himself, which I love. I love actors that recognize what their persona in films is, embraces this persona, and then proceeds to have fun with said persona. Statham does exactly this. Bobby Cannavale is great, and Miranda Hart is hilarious. But then there's Rose Byrne. Freaking Rose Byrne. I've been singing this woman's praises for years, and she once again steals the show as the antagonist. There are very few actors out there who have as diverse an acting portfolio as Rose Byrne does. And every time I see her, she steals the show. She did in Get Him to the Greek. She did in Insidious. She did in Bridesmaids. She did in Neighbors. She even did it in freaking Knowing! Yes, she was the only good thing about that film I know. Once again, she steals the show, creating a hilarious character that actually has a lot of intrigue surrounding her at first and then becomes even funnier as you start to get to know her. Her exchanges with Melissa McCarthy were easily the best part of the film.
So, what else is there to say about this film? Again, it's great, but it's still lacking memorability. I do not see myself watching this film again in the near future, despite its hilarious dialogue. And good action! Props to Feig for shooting an excellent action film. He doesn't do anything special, but the plot here is filled with twists and turns that you don't see coming. Time was clearly spent on creating an excellent script to go along with the improv moments. But it's still shallow. Oh well.
The Critique: a perfect summary of the comedy genre today. Witty dialogue and good action on the surface, but nothing more to it than that.
The Recommendation: if you wanted to see this film you probably already have. Those who are comedy purists, however, will have to wait until 2016 before getting a decent comedy again. Please don't suck Edgar Wright.....
The Verdict: 8/10 Great.