Spy pitches itself as a parody of all the male-centric spy movies we have seen over the many many years. From the opening credits with the silhouettes and big opening song, you instantly think that Spy isn’t going to do things by halves. You have you typical British/American Spy played by Jude Law, a man more certain of his capabilities as a spy than he is of his accent. But as the saying goes, “behind all great men there is a woman“, and in this case it’s Melissa McCarthy, an equally qualified spy who has been forced to carry out basement based communications to those out in the field taking all the glory.
An incident leads McCarthy’s character to head out into the field, and to the films credit, rather than play on predictable ‘hilarious’ consequences based on her actual physical appearance and that she’s a woman, it turns out that she’s a bad-ass. There are a few tweaks to be made, but fundamentally she has all the capabilities to be a successful spy, and it takes everyone by surprise.
I would not have minded if it continued on that path. However, Spy became caught in two minds between being a spy movie and a comedy, and we ended up with a bland version of both. The script slowly gets more sweary, because hearing fucking swear words every fucking word is fucking funny apparently. Throw in a few poo/haemorrhoid jokes based around the gadgets and their disguises, a vomit gag, a few titgrabs and some slapstick and you have the level of humour this film strived for. It’s middle of the road, inoffensive, parents trying to be funny on Facebook type of humour. The kind of person who posts memes of Minions on Facebook/Instagram with irrelevant comedy quotes next to them – this is the person I have in mind who would find this funny.
It seemed a waste, because the cast (apart from Miranda) are actually all funny in their own right, and have evidenced it in other films/TV (except Miranda). Statham shone as a parody of himself, Jude Law plays on his obnoxiousness excellently, Rose Byrne was a hideous human-being and funnier for it, and McCarthy is brilliant as the determined rookie, defying expectations at every turn. All good in theory, and in small portions they had their moments. The primary problem of all of this was the script – a distinct lack of direction, and a consistent lack of good jokes!
I don’t see the need to make a film this stupid, when it could have been really subtle and clever. Why give a character to someone if you’re going to undermine it with something a child would direct. It could have been a great play on the Bond series with a woman in the lead, removing the nonsense of Austin Powers and making something that dared to be on the same level as Naked Gun. Instead it just seemed infantile and dull, with this constant need to create awkwardness when it wasn’t needed. Forced cringeworthy humour doesn’t work – no matter how much you talk out of the side of your mouth, and say “errrrhhhh” before you speak (see the dinner scene with Jude Law), it doesn’t make it awkward. It felt like I was watching a shit Inbetweeners sketch reenacted by people who had never told a joke before.
This film for me, just wasn’t funny. I really wanted to like it, I understand why some people would like it and I’m sorry to those that do – I liked the cast and admittedly there were moments that got me. Unfortunately, in my eyes this is no better than a ‘bro’ comedy where the humour is poorly structured, juvenile and idiotic. At 2 hours running time, there were simply not enough good quality jokes/references to keep my interest, and while it took it’s sweet time to merge into an action film, those sequences were messy and tedious too.
I hold out hope that eventually we will be dealt a good comedy film in the mainstream. That we aren’t shoehorned into these categories where men are seen to enjoy movies full of dick jokes, sex and shitting, and women apparently like movies full of jokes about tits, men and swearing. If Spy had parodied the genre rather than try so overly hard to pander to the perceieved gender expectations, then the parody of the male spy would have happened effortlessly. In the end, I didn’t know what it was – and I don’t think it did either.