Sony’s much maligned, female centric Ghostbusters reboot was the center of attention this weekend as insiders and trackers were keeping a close eye on the controversial movie’s box office performance. But while everyone was watching what could be the most talked about movie in years, Universal/Illumination Entertainment’s animated blockbuster The Secret Life of Pets snuck past the supernatural comedy to claim box office supremacy for the second weekend in a row.

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Perhaps the most hated movie of the century has arrived in theatres. The release date for Ghostbusters: Answer The Call has been Christmas in July for online haters and trolls and this movie has been mercilessly skewered the last year and a half (especially after Sony’s underwhelming trailers started to see the light of day). But if you can divorce yourself from your nostalgia for the original 1984 classic and accept that the world has changed over the last thirty years, you’ll likely leave the theatre both surprised and entertained.

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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


Director:  Paul Feig

Starring:  Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy

Studio:  Twentieth Century Fox

Length:  1 Hr 57 Min

Rated:  R

F.B.I. agent Sara Ashburn and Boston Police Detective Shannon Mullins don’t just come from different worlds, but are polar opposites when it comes to police work as well.  Ashurn is a straight-laced, clean-cut, well-dressed example of professionalism and efficiency.  She can recite the rulebook backwards and forwards as well as highlight the achievements on her considerable resume, which she repeatedly does to the chagrin of her F.B.I. colleagues.  But socially, she’s clumsier than a drunken three-legged giraffe and her definitively awkward social skills combined with her defensive arrogance distance her from everyone around her.  She’s so lonely she regularly kidnaps her neighbour’s cat for companionship.  Mullins on the other hand, is a sloppy, crude, profane force of nature with all the subtle charm and grace of a wrecking ball on speed.  Over the course of the movie, she throws watermelons, telephone books, knives and plenty of punches and bullies both cops and crooks alike.  The only reason she’s tolerated in her precinct is because she knows the streets better than anyone and fills more jail cells than any of her co-workers.  The two even find themselves working the same case for different reasons and there’s immediate, hilarious friction between the two.  But while their polar opposite characters clash on-screen, it’s soon apparent that Bullock and McCarthy shared immediate, natural chemistry during filming and that’s what lifts The Heat from being a potentially disappointing she-buddy cop movie to a hilarious comedy for grown ups.

Special Agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is dispatched to Boston to bring down a drug lord no one’s even seen.  It’s difficult finding witnesses because anyone who’s gotten on the wrong side of the mysterious underworld figure is found a piece at a time. Ashburn is sent because she’s an expert interrogator who, in the words of her boss, “gets inside people’s heads.”  Her incentive is purely professional because the F.B.I. is dangling a promotion in front of her, promising her a sweet job if she does well.  Following a trail of suspects, she comes across a low-level drug dealer nabbed by Boston Police Detective Mullins (Melissa McCarthy).  Turns out McCarthy isn’t just possessive of Boston’s streets, but of her suspects as well and even her precinct captain avoids going near her collars.  The two become reluctant partners and soon Mullin’s family, especially her ex-con brother, find themselves in the crosshairs.

Watching McCarthy and Bullock on-screen you get the feeling that the majority of what’s coming out of their mouths was pure improv, the two actresses feeding off one another and allowing their characters to just flow out, using the script like a schematic more than anything else. The two intuitively allow the friendship between their characters to grow naturally, using their few similarities as the foundation of a bond.  Ashburn is a former foster child while Mullins has a loud, crass Boston family who hates her because she was the cop who arrested her brother.  Ashburn hasn’t had anything resembling a date in years while Mullins goes through men and one night stands like Captain Kirk goes through green alien strippers, yet she’s just as lonely as Ashburn.   Both are friendless but they share a relentless devotion to their jobs, albeit with different motives.  This makes the eventual friendship more natural, and the laughs more genuine.  Half way through the movie, you forget your watching partners arguing and start to believe your watching two sisters hurling insults at each other, and it’s all a testament to the easy relationship Bullock and McCarthy must have shared during filming.  The nightclub scene alone is nearly worth the price of admission, where Ashburn’s horrific attempts at being seductive are balanced out by Mullins’ impersonating an NFL linebacker, spewing one liners and obscenities the whole time.

Director Paul Feig is smart enough to sit back and allow his female leads plenty of slack to work their magic, and you have to think that the outtakes and deleted scenes on the home release a few months from now will be worth more than the actual movie.  The plot is pretty standard fare with few surprises, but it’s just a clothesline to hang a pair of excellent comedic performances on.  The supporting cast is strong, whether it be Marlon Wayans bright young agent Ely or Thomas Wilson’s exasperated captain Woods, everyone is pretty much there to get arrested, get smacked around or to observe Bullock and McCarthy have at one another.

The humour is pretty adult without being pornographic or obscene, and your definitely leaving the kids at home for this one.  Even some of the scenes they wanted to show off in trailers had to be cleaned up a little for TV audiences.  If you’re turned off by swearing and profanity, then seeing The Heat is a waste of both time and money, but if you’re looking for some guilty laughs and maybe need an escape from the saccharine kiddie movies for a few hours, then this is one summer comedy definitely worth checking out.

Shayne Kempton