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Monday, June 15, 2015

Spy: Funny and Worth Seeing

I was really surprised by "Spy." I was surprised because it's billed as a comedy, and I actually laughed out loud, and there was laughter in the theater throughout the film. I can't remember the last time I went to see a new release comedy and that happened. The humor in "Spy" is surprisingly gentle and light hearted. That's surprising because the filmmakers apparently felt it was necessary to build a violent, obscene movie around jokes that a ten-year-old could enjoy while watching the movie with her grandmother. Melissa McCarthy is famously fat, and female, and there is no way males are going to go see a movie starring a fat woman in the numbers box office bean counters want, so the filmmakers added lots of violence and obscene language. That's unfortunate. I know some people who could and would enjoy this movie but they'll never see it because of the violence.

Plot: Melissa McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a CIA agent who is the voice in the earpiece of glamorous field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Fine is obviously based on James Bond. The joke is that every move he makes is directed by Cooper, sitting behind her desk at CIA headquarters.

Events conspire to get Cooper out from behind her desk and in the field in glamorous European capitals. She must prevent Chechens from buying a nuclear bomb. It's a James Bond style plot built around Susan's funny character.

A good number of the jokes in the movie concern Melissa McCarthy's weight. Again, I didn't think I'd find these jokes funny, but I did. The butt of the joke is not McCarthy, but how skinnier and prettier people treat a fat woman. The butt of the joke is their stupid prejudice against fat women. The CIA assigns Susan a series of aliases all built around her being a fat loser. One is an "unemployed telemarketer with ten cats." Susan, though, is really heroic and competent. McCarthy is very charming and lovable. You root for her and you are happy when she succeeds.

Jason Statham is hysterical in a small role. He is a living combination of Chuck Norris / Most Interesting Man in the World jokes. Jude Law is a perfect stand-in for James Bond. Peter Serafinowicz, whose distinctive last name I remember from a Holocaust memoir, is very funny as a stereotypical Italian. (Serafinowicz is the grandson of a war criminal.) Alison Janney is terrific.

This movie is good enough that I've already decided to go see the inevitable sequel.

PS: the posters that depict McCarthy as a secondary character are misleading. She is the film's star. Just goes to show you how fearful the marketers are that no one will go to see a movie with a fat, female star. That's a shame. McCarthy is a gem.



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