dvd let­ter­box

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

Melissa McCarthy stole the com­edy Brides­maids — which is say­ing some­thing, given the film’s ter­rific com­edy ensem­ble.

She there­after briefly be­came the big­gest thing in Amer­i­can com­edy, be­fore Louis CK came along, fol­lowed by Amy Schumer.

McCarthy earned the lead­ing roles in Iden­tity Thief, Tammy and The Heat, yet they didn’t serve her well. They made her comic ex­trem­i­ties — par­tic­u­larly her im­pro­vised in­vec­tive — the whole thing rather than just part of her per­sona.

DVD Let­ter­box, for one, found that par­tic­u­lar McCarthy a lit­tle too much across the stretch of a fea­ture film.

The new re­lease Spy winds McCarthy back a notch and show­cases her at her best. It is a very funny film, which should be no sur­prise be­cause it is McCarthy’s third gig in rapid suc­ces­sion with writer and di­rec­tor Paul Feig.

Feig, who di­rected Brides­maids and has reimagined Ghost­busters with three fe­male leads (McCarthy, Kris­ten Wiig and Satur­day Night Live’s Kate McKin­non), first ven­tured down Spy’s path with The Heat. That com­edy team­ing of McCarthy with Bul­lock was a par­ody of a 1980s buddy cop movie, star­ring two women — gasp! Spy is a par­ody of the James Bond spy thriller and it gets a lot more right than The Heat, which it­self wasn’t bad.

It opens with a set piece in which the spy hero, Jude Law’s Bradley Fine, at­tempts to foil a crim­i­nal plot, all the while be­ing guided through his ear­piece by his loyal CIA desk jockey, McCarthy’s Su­san.

Su­san is the un­der-utilised agent lack­ing the con­fi­dence of the more glam­orous ones in the field, un­til one thing leads to another and the wall­flower is sent to Europe to crack the case, defuse the bomb and all the rest.

Her dis­guises are de­cid­edly dowdy and con­de­scend­ing un­til she breaks the shack­les and be­comes, as an­tic­i­pated, the su­per spy. Of course it is all rather un­likely, and all the more funny be­cause of it.

But Spy’s great strength is that McCarthy is al­lowed to come across as a more ap­proach­able char­ac­ter. Sure, she’s volatile, pro­fane and McCarthy, but Su­san’s also anx­ious, vul­ner­a­ble and in­tel­li­gent. It’s the best ver­sion of Melissa McCarthy.

And she’s sur­rounded by a won­der­ful com­edy cast in­clud­ing Rose Byrne as a Bul­gar­ian crim, Peter Ser­afi­now­icz in another de­light­ful “for­eigner” cameo, Mi­randa Hart as the best buddy and Jason Statham as a won­der­ful par­ody of him­self — made even more won­der­ful if you imag­ine he’s not in on the joke.

And the film has a ca­sual fem­i­nism to it, with Su­san break­ing the shack­les and all key roles be­ing played by women (in­clud­ing a ter­rific Al­li­son Jan­ney) with­out Feig bat­ting an eye­lid.

Spy (MA15+, Fox, 130min, $29.99) is far more amus­ing, ab­surd (the ver­min-in­fested CIA base is just batty), a lit­tle more vi­o­lent and pro­gres­sive than your stan­dard Hol­ly­wood com­edy. And McCarthy is not all of the rea­son for that, just a very big part of it.

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