Spy — 7/10

SPY (2015, Paul Feig)

As the man carrying the torch for female-centered comedies (feminism will have to take what it can get, it seems), Feig goes bold here — casting all of its heavyweight roles (the hero, the super villain, the competent accomplices) with ladies, and saving the macho, studly men for sidekicks, clowns, buffoons, and perverts. But that’s about as far as SPY goes in its attempts at sociopolitical rebellion: its mind is strictly on making us laugh, and that it does. Very often.

I was looking forward to seeing Byrne take on a villain role, since she showed incredible comic chops in BRIDESMAIDS and NEIGHBORS. This performance isn’t quite up to those others, but she has her share of good scenes. McCarthy doesn’t really do anything we haven’t seen before, though she once again proves she might even be better at subtle emotion than broad comedy (I’ll take her touching third-act speech to Amanda Peet in the otherwise lame IDENTITY THIEF over anything in THE HEAT). In support, Allison Janney and Miranda Hart are terrific.

As for the boys, Jude Law is brushed a bit to the sides (though he relishes his rare time on screen) and Bobby Cannavale is uncharacteristically forgettable — but the standout by far is Jason Statham. Like Law, he doesn’t have a big enough role, but when he’s center screen he is tremendous; he finally turns the unintentional hilarity of his straight-laced straight-to-DVD persona (check out how he delivers the final line “A potato” in TRANSPORTER 2) into intentional hilarity. Statham knows that to be overly serious is to be funny, and he squeezes every bit of pulpy juice out of the fruit given to him Feig. And for good measure, fans of Will Arnett’s short-lived RUNNING WILDE sitcom will recognize the amusing comic talents of the prolific-these-days Peter Serafinowicz, once again playing someone gross.

SPY isn’t much of a spy thriller — its attempts to spoof the genre are half-hearted at best, nor does its narrative provide anything fresh (it has one very predictable third act twist that frustratingly has zero consequences); but it’s slickly photographed even if it’s sloppily edited (you’ll lose track counting the continuity errors). But it does have a ton of good jokes about big hair and ingesting 127 different kinds of poison at once.

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