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Melissa McCarthy scores a hit in “Spy”

Melissa McCarthy scores a hit in "Spy"

At last, Melissa McCarthy has a vehicle worthy of her
prodigious comic talent: Spy is her
funniest film to date. Like any good parody, this one effectively emulates its
source material. Writer-director Paul Feig has fashioned a lavish,
globe-trotting production that—with a few twists—could pass muster as a bona
fide espionage thriller. This provides a solid foundation for comedy, no matter
how outlandish it becomes.

McCarthy plays a CIA agent who works behind a desk in
Langley, Virginia, using cutting-edge technology to serve as the eyes and ears
of a dashing James Bond-like operative (Jude Law). She’s lovesick over him and
he takes full advantage of that, having her pick up his dry cleaning and deal
with his gardener at home…but McCarthy is no dope, which is crucial to the
story. Although she’s never worked in the field, she passed her original agency
test with flying colors. That’s why her boss (a well-cast Allison Janney)
agrees to send her on assignment overseas, because she’s the only qualified person
whose face is unknown to our enemies.

This comes as such an insult to fellow agent Jason Statham
that he quits the agency in a huff and goes rogue. I never could have
anticipated that this stone-faced action star would become a great comic foil,
but Feig has pulled off the casting coup of the year. Statham delivers and provides
one of Spy’s funniest running gags.

British comedienne Miranda Hart is also well-featured as
McCarthy’s workplace pal who follows in her footsteps, almost literally, once
she puts herself at risk on the streets of Paris and Budapest.

Rose Byrne is well on her way to becoming modern movie
comedy’s MVP, playing a savvy seductress who can lead McCarthy to a nuclear
weapon that serves as this movie’s MacGuffin. With a vague Eastern European
accent, her character could have been an out-and-out caricature, but Byrne
adopts a light touch instead and retains an air of menace that helps keep the
story on track.

Top-notch action sequences, inventive sight gags, a sterling
cast, great locations, and a perfect balance of intrigue and farce make Spy satisfying entertainment from start
to finish. The cherry on this sundae is Melissa McCarthy, a gifted performer
who’s been saddled with too many crass, mediocre parts over the past few years.
Here she’s playing a reasonably believable human being who finds herself in
unexpected situations; that’s a great springboard for slapstick, silliness, and
a series of foul-mouthed barrages that only she could pull off.

Spy gets
everything right. That’s why it’s the best comedy of the year.

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