Director: Paul Feig

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Miranda Hart and Allison Janney

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox

Rated: 14A

Running Time: 2 Hrs

My favourite comedy from the summer of 2013 was The Heat, starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock as polar opposite cops forced into a reluctant partnership to stop a criminal mastermind. It wasn’t the story or direction or jokes that made The Heat work so well (all of which was pretty pedestrian) as it was the on screen chemistry between McCarthy and Bullock, so I was more then a little disappointed when McCarthy’s solo comedic vehicle Tammy fell flat last summer. But McCarthy’s latest comedic effort, Spy, not only returns her to the top of the comedy genre, but also allows her to stretch herself beyond her regular spastic slapstick.

Socially awkward Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is an analyst in the C.I.A, partnered up with dashing James Bondesque superspy Bradley Fine (Jude Law). She’s his eyes, ears, personal intelligence database and occasional guardian angel and the two have been partners for nearly a decade. Yet the suave, obnoxiously confident Fine is completely oblivious to the feelings his deskbound partner has developed for him, so when it looks like Fine is killed on a mission to retrieve a nuclear bomb before it can be sold to terrorists and compromises the C.I.A’s entire roster of field agents at the same time, Cooper is tapped to help save the day. Quickly in over her head, she’s forced to abandon caution, common sense and the social camouflage she’s used her entire life to blend in and disappear.

Tammy failed on two fronts; its first mistake was failing to take advantage of McCarthy’s natural likeability and the second was failing to find a capable screen foil for her, allowing her to wander through the entire movie with no one to play off of. But in Spy, McCarthy’s provided with a variety of capable co-stars to trade quips with, and they all mesh remarkably well. Law is more then convincing as the movie’s 007, a well dressed lady’s man who often can’t see what’s right in front of him. Rose Byrne is as the over privileged, snobbish diva and villainess Rayna Boynov. Jason Statham was an inspired choice to play the super macho Rick Ford, and he manages to steal just about every scene he’s in, constantly bragging about his impossibly long list of embellished deeds and thinks everyone else is the height of incompetence. Allison Janney delivers as the hardnosed, humourless C.I.A. director Elaine Crocker (whose constantly saddling Cooper with the worst secret covers imaginable) and Miranda Hart is equally good as Cooper’s somehow more socially awkward sidekick, Nancy Artingstall. Each cast member shares a different brand of successful chemistry with McCarthy and each works like a cog in a bigger, funnier machine.

McCarthy herself explores new territory as well, shifting from a timid, self-conscious wallflower to an ass kicking, globe trotting, world saver with more then her fair share of action sequences in between. In fact the fight scene in the kitchen is more entertaining then what your likely to see on a lot of UFC pay-per-views. McCarthy proves more then capable of mixing fast, sharp jokes in between the gunshots, explosions and punches while long time collaborator Paul Feig is smart enough to point his cast in the right direction and then get out of it’s way.

Spy is a welcome return for McCarthy and a breath of fresh air from more manufactured comedies that can’t get off the ground (looking at you, Hot Pursuit). McCarthy is allowed to play to her strengths while successfully adding a few new tools to her skill set., and she looks more then ready to assume the role as the comedy Alpha in the upcoming all female reboot of Ghostbusters, naysayers and misogynists be damned.

Shayne Kempton

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