Superior comedy thriller Spy attempts nothing new in the spoof genre. We’ve seen it all before but, notably, not in the company of Melissa McCarthy who makes the whole thing fresh, filthy and funny.
Much of the credit to writer-director Paul Feig. He showed in Bridesmaids and The Heat how to deal with Melissa’s star quality, which lives in a pigeonhole labelled “Kickass Frump”.
Her character Susan Cooper begins this glitzy, globe-trotting story in the rat-infested basement, behind a computer, directing the actions of CIA superspy (and secret crush) Bradley Fine (Jude Law). In case we’re clueless as to what we’re spoofing here, Law wears dinner jacket and a roguish smile and quaffs champagne before dispatching baddies with stylish aplomb.
When Fine’s op goes awry and the cover of a gallery of CIA agents is blown, there’s only one place to look. Down in that anonymous basement and “cleanskin” Susan Cooper. She is given a range of dowdy IDs – cat lady, crochet queen – and little gadgets packed in stool softener pills or haemorrhoid wipes. Then she’s sent round the world to nail Rose Bryne’s cold-hearted killer Rayna.
“Christmas on a cracker,” as she might say.
In this comedic quest McCarthy does not stand alone. Her best friend is our very own Miranda Hart playing, well, Miranda Hart – the goofy big bird of awkwardness – and the two are a seamless double act of gawky slapstick.
Then there’s Peter Serafinowicz in a smooth cameo as a horny Italian and, remarkably, Jason Statham who takes all the Jason Statham hard-as-nuts knucklehead stereotypes and upends them, often violently, cracking heads but not a smile. He’s a hoot.
But all eyes are on McCarthy as she grows from put-upon gopher to swish baddie kicker. She riffs brilliantly with her co-stars and there are enough put-downs, jibes and profane Thick Of It insults to keep the laughter rolling.
Feig plays the action straight and the story tough and twisting. But the comedy is broad and female-friendly. Indeed, this is one for the girls who can toast McCarthy as she makes minced meat of the beefcake.