I paid to see Spy at the Arclight last night. I’m not a laugh-out-loud type, especially during a film as light and inconsequential as this one, but the audience gave it up repeatedly…”Hee-hee-hee…tee-hee-hoo!…eeyuh-huh-hah!” I turned around a couple of times and gave them one of my stink-eye looks. “You rubes…you easy lays…laughing like those chain-gang prisoners at the finale of Sullivan’s Travels. So you’ve got your popcorn and drink and a nothing little travelogue spy spoof with some sassy dialogue, and I’ll bet half of you didn’t even consider seeing Love & Mercy.”
Spy is moderately amusing at times. I sat, watched, half-grinned occasionally. I wasn’t enthralled but I was only faintly bored. I didn’t have what you would call an “enjoyable” time but I wasn’t in pain. I didn’t hate it but I settled for it. And for the first time since Bridesmaids I actually enjoyed Melissa McCarthy‘s performance. Or her character rather. Because unlike her low-rent, emotionally primitive rage-aholics in Identity Thief, The Heat and Tammy, Spy‘s Susan Cooper has a semi-tolerable personality that didn’t drive me up the wall. She’s sharp, witty, emotionally mature, resourceful, motor-mouthed — she even speaks a little French.
But the movie is a piffle, a throwaway. It never sinks in for a second. Superior comedies invest in story, character and theme like any good drama — they just add a little powdered mescaline to the punch. Spy is fast and reddy-teddy; director-writer Paul Feig keeps shuffling the deck and dealing new cards. New but not fresh and from a very familiar deck. I think that says it all.