Ahead of the release of Spectre in November, a lot of talk has gone into who is going to be the next Bond. It might be worth throwing Melissa McCarthy’s name into the hat. Unusual I know but bear with me. Idris Elba was in the running as the first black Bond, Damien Lewis would be the first ginger Bond but how about adding McCarthy as the first frumpy American Midwest cat lady Bond? Just a thought.
Spy, her latest film, and third collaboration with writer/director Paul Feig, is a riot from start to finish and an accomplished spoof on the genre of its title. Initially chained to a desk in the rodent-infested “basement” at Langley, Susan is a shy and retiring flower – characteristics not normally attributed to McCarthy – who lives to serve and love the suave and successful Bradley Fine (Jude Law – who milks the role for all it’s worth), field agent extraordinaire. Upon his death, and the exposure of a network of agents – including the loud-mouthed, boastful bull-in-a-china-shop Jason Statham – the unknown Susan steps into the fold and with aforementioned cat lady cover story, amongst others, embarks on a mission across Europe to observe and report on the movements of the woman responsible for Fine’s murder and the sale of a nuclear weapon, Rayna Boyanov – played by Rose Byrne who teams up with Feig and McCarthy again after Bridesmaids and isn’t really a very bad baddie.
It is familiar ground in terms of plot and threat of imminent doom but in Feig’s hands the 007/Jason Bourne tropes of gadgets, high speed chases, hand to hand combat and big explosions are put to very good, and often hilarious, use. I don’t think too many audience members will have ever laughed so hard at the difficulty of operating a mobility scooter. Spy‘s equivalent of the Bond-gets-his-gadgets-from-Q scene is also a moment to savour. You’ll never look at a bottle of stool softener the same again.
As Susan’s self-assurance grows as does the firecracker inside the McCarthy we have come to know and love. Her one-line put downs will have you in stitches – “You look like a slutty dolphin trainer,” being a personal favourite of mine.
Further elements of a strong cast include Allison Janney, who delivers moments of caustic and deadpan brilliance and British comedienne Miranda Hart, a quirky, and unusually tall, foil and confidant to McCarthy.
I really don’t know why 50 Cent was given a cameo in this film but it is just awful and will have you cringing. And although Statham’s fumbling and clumsy muppet of a character is amusing, the constant f-bombing wears thin pretty quickly and struck of a lack of imagination on Feig’s part. Not every Cockney lad (another Brit working for the CIA?) f*cking swears every three f*cking words! Or do they…?
These, however, are two minor quibbles in a film that otherwise hits all the right spots in an Airplane or Hot Shots kind of way and thankfully avoids anything close to resembling Johnny English. Go see it. And have a good chuckle.