I don’t enjoy writing negative reviews. It’s a struggle when the film experience was joyless and then to have to go back and relive that. I also don’t enjoy reading reviews by other critics that get everything completely wrong. It’s even worse when almost all the critics get it wrong. Even worse than that is when I see critics dumping on a film that’s actually good, but that’s a story for a different day. How can I say Spy is so bad? Because I had to sit through the movie. I can get some enjoyment out of even the worst movies, and that’s true here, but I would not recommend it to unsuspecting viewers. I do imagine a lot of people will enjoy the movie despite themselves if they are paying for babysitters, etc. Again, I do think every movie has some entertainment value. I will try to find it in the new movie Spy. The first good thing I can say is that Spy is a chick flick that lets chicks save the day. They don’t look great doing it, but they save the day. That’s one of the problems. Almost no one looks good in this film.
The film has a great cast. Melissa McCarthy is the big star, but she shares billing with Jason Statham, Jude Law, and Rose Byrne. You can also throw in sturdy supporting players like Allison Janney and Bobby Cannavale. There are plenty more, but those are the names. I will say that the person who comes off the best is Rose Byrne. She plays a super-bitch super-villain who you truly believe doesn’t like anyone. She dispatches people with the unpleasant venom of someone who doesn’t like the service she is receiving at a restaurant. Jason Statham has the thankless job of making fun of himself. He seems game, but he doesn’t really pull it off. He gets some of the funniest material but almost flubs most of his lines with his mush-mouth delivery. Jude Law gets the part of the perfect James Bond-type spy, but you get the hint of embarrassment in his facial mannerisms like he’s trying too hard to spoof the trope.
Allison Janney is a very familiar face over the years and a reliable performer. Here she is an annoyed and miserable administrator over a group of drone-like spies. She comes off miserable and annoying. Frankly, I’ve never seen her look worse. She certainly wasn’t funny. Bobby Cannavale has been great in so many things in the last few years, it’s a little disappointing to see him play a kind of mid-level villain functionary. The humor is almost on a level of the famous spy TV series by Mel Brooks, Get Smart. I said almost. They writer and director, Paul Feig prides himself on pushing the envelope by including lots and lots of curse words. Fabulous. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it’s just offensive. Why didn’t he include lots of nudity and sex scenes if he was going for the R- rating anyway? There are a few gory death scenes, so at least it has that going for it.
Then we come to our big star, Melissa McCarthy. I remember her being funny in Bridesmaids (as was her co-star Rose Byrne). But that comedy was extremely sharply written, and everyone had moments to shine. Melissa has had the spotlight shine brighter on her lately, more than almost anyone aside from Kevin Hart. I can’t wait to see a movie where they are co-billed. They both like to chew the scenery. There is another scene stealer here named Miranda Hart. She is buck-toothed giant best known from British TV. Her scenes are effective as a kind of second banana to McCarthy. I think she is taking the brunt of stupid and awkward, allowing McCarthy to take the mantle of leading lady. I personally am one of the few people who has not been thrilled with the comedy of McCarthy. I think McCarthy herself is probably uncomfortable with the way she’s been used. I’ve been hearing rumblings from her camp that she never comes off pretty enough. I really didn’t like her in St.Vincent and Tammy but also was not bowled over by The Heat, her previous teaming with Paul Feig. I also am not thrilled with Feig since everything seems too loose and improvised to the point where I’m saying, “Didn’t they have a better take than that?”
So in case you didn’t notice, this is a negative review. I didn’t want to do it. It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it. I suppose that’s what they said when they were making this movie.