Ever wondered what would happen if you had a kid and routinely fed them egg mayo sandwiches, only you’ve replaced the butter with chocolate spread and the mayo with vegetable crsips? No? Well have you ever wondered what would happen if you had a kid and woke them up on weekends by lighting Chinese firecrackers in their room? What about if you constantly screamed “God save us all” with blinding fear in your voice as you drove them to school every day?
No. Me neither. But I’d imagine that you’d have a child with a personality disorder that is of the same magnitude as Spy. I say this because Spy is trying to be three different types of comedy in one go and what you are left with is a film that fluctuates between a spoof an underdog story and a balls out, testosterone filled, foul mouthed comedy.
This identity crisis leads to a lack of focus and clarity in it’s purpose leaving the film feeling consistently underdeveloped. Consider AI or perhaps Grindhouse in this respect; yes they have their moments but feel cluttered and disparate from having multiple directors pulling the films in different directions.
The film starts of in it’s worst mode as a spoof of James Bond complete with title scene lifted from the popular franchise. We then have Jude Law who plays a hyper-realised, charming and smart Bradley Fine. This smarmy acting and the insistence to refer to Bradley as fine by name fine by nature is actually a bit of bore, even if it does set up Melissa McCarthy as Bradley’s frumpy and unconfident operations room assistant: Susan Cooper.
It’s from here that the film engages the second and arguably the best vehicle for comedy. Susan grows from this timid and unsure supporting role to a fresh faced field agent. Whilst this part doesn’t provide the heartiest belly laughs it is the best developed aspect of the film. Seeing Susan become the try hard field agent and shake off her previous unfulfilled ambitions is subtly endearing. God loves a trier, right?
What Susan is trying to do in the field is to stop a nuke being sold into wrongful hands. Its not an original plot. It must have been done hundreds of times before and this one offers absolutely nothing new. Thankfully the film’s focus is on characterisation otherwise the film would have totally tanked.
One such characterisation is of a hyper masculine Rick Ford (Jason Statham) who leaks more testosterone than BP leaked oil into the gulf of Mexico a few years back. Statham’s character marks the start of our third type of comedy. Almost every word that comes out of Ford’s mouth is either a lie or some sort of insult.
As the Susan closes in on her target Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne – who incidentally plays a very good spoiled, sycophantic villain) she too has to adopt a similar persona to Ford. This is where I laughed the hardiest as a lot of the venomous lines are exactly the sort of witty put downs you wish you could think of when you want to insult someone instead of an inevitable retort of “…. Err… Shut up!”.
One of the most underwhelming characters however is Nancy Artingstall (Miranda Hart). Miranda plays the role exactly as almost every other role she has been in; hapless and dim witted. What really didn’t make sense was that by the end of the film McCarthy’s character has passed on the mantle of being a stellar backroom agent to Miranda Hart. Why, when she is clearly useless? For comedy value? Perhaps but she isn’t slapstick enough to fulfill the bumbling yet adorable idiot role.
Even with a unimaginative storyline Spy has an ample amount of laughs thanks to the character depictions but by the time the film ends it is straddling three different comedy styles and ultimately leaves you wondering why?!
- Good characters
- A fistful of vicious put downs
- A charming underdog story somewhere in there
- Confused comedy styles
- Bog standard story
- Miranda Hart