I hated Paul Feig’s last collaboration with Melissa McCarthy, The Heat, so it’s fair to say I wasn’t expecting much out of this return to another well-worn genre (guess which). And though it’s not perfect in every respect, thankfully it’s a lot better — and more sustainedly funny, too. The set-up is that Susan Cooper (McCarthy) plays a shy back-room support role for Jude Law’s suave agent in the field, but when he is taken out of the picture she needs to step up to become a field agent herself. British TV audiences might have difficulty accepting Miranda Hart as a bumbling best friend, or Peter Serafinowicz as a sleazy Italian, but the way these archetypes are framed within the story is certainly done with a lot more intelligence than this year’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, another (apparently) comic take on the James Bond ethos. Perhaps best of all — surprisingly — is Jason Statham, as an utterly unironic (and therefore hilarious) spy film superhero, embodying all the worst traits of Bond, and easily confounded by Susan Cooper. The simple twist is handled with aplomb, and McCarthy puts across her best comedy performance yet (especially when she sheds the shy persona to take control), but most importantly, Spy is funny when it needs to be.
Director/Writer Paul Feig; Cinematographer Robert Yeoman; Starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Jude Law; Length 120 minutes.
Seen at Peckhamplex, London, Saturday 13 June 2015.
I’m writing this to catch up with the films I’ve seen this year; I saw this a month and a half prior to writing this review, and my memory of it has faded. It’s a British romantic comedy involving four people, two men and two women, who are with the wrong partners, basically. The film is about them finding the right ones (i.e. swapping who they’re with).
On the one hand, Rose Byrne is really pretty, and perfectly convincing as an uptight professional woman. On the other hand, not a single one of the four main characters is in any way likeable, which means by the end of the film I really don’t care whether or not they get together with the right person, or are all hit by a bus and die. I can reveal that the latter does not happen, but then what does happen is scarcely any more enjoyable.
What keeps the film from being an utter failure is that there are a number of nice comic cameos. Stephen Merchant as a boorish best friend is essentially in a different movie, and although he’s no more pleasant or likeable than the leads, he is at least intended to be that way; small consolation I concede. Even better is the ever-reliable Olivia Colman, who gets the biggest laughs as a relationship counsellor, even if she’s not particularly believable as one (the joke being that she has terrible relationship issues with her own spouse).
None of the actors is particularly bad: they do what the can with the material they have to work with. It’s just a pity, because this could be a likeable film (there were enough jokes to pack the trailer with mirth), it just manages to miss the target.
Director/Writer Dan Mazer; Cinematographer Ben Davis; Starring Rafe Spall, Rose Byrne, Anna Faris, Stephen Merchant, Olivia Colman; Length 97 minutes.
Seen at Cineworld Shaftesbury Avenue, London, Sunday 10 February 2013.