Spy - Cinema Review

'a constant stream of insults that think they're funny but aren't and jokes that would land if they had any timing whatsoever'

Paul Feig's Spy is so devoid of laughs that you do have to start by wondering whether Comedy is actually its primary genre. The fact that it might not be is made more plausible by the action-packed plot, which is far more successful at giving star Melissa McCarthy and friends R-rated fights to get into than it is providing zingers for her to deliver. McCarthy is supported by, amongst others, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne and Jude Law, three talents hardly renowned for their comedic chops. Has Feig fooled us all and presented a comedy-tinged Thriller, rather than something more obviously designed to amuse?

If only that were so. Spy is a constant stream of insults that think they're funny but aren't and jokes that would land if they had any timing whatsoever. Two from the trailer are a case in point. Susan Cooper (McCarthy) describing an underling as a 'limp dick unicorn' isn't funny, especially when the entirety of the film is composed of similar 'hilarious' labels. Eventually Cooper ends up in the vicinity of Rayna Boyanov (Byrne), whose entire shtick is to insult and shout at everyone in her presence. If only every other character hadn't had the same idea.

On more solid ground, Feig gives McCarthy a silly outfit and has two leering men drive past her with a look of amazement. There's a pause. A longer one than in the trailer. It goes on for a bit more time. Then McCarthy finally delivers the pay-off: 'well that's a confidence builder'. It's tone deaf editing and self-defeating Comedy. Miranda Hart pops up as Cooper's friend and partner at the CIA. 'Looks like they've put you up at the Carlton Shitz', she proposes of Cooper's accommodation, pilfering a 'joke' you suspect even Sid James may have left on the cutting room floor.

The Comedy then is lacking, save for a small handful of laughs that land, but there are positives elsewhere. Statham proves to be surprisingly adept at sending himself up whilst generating few full-on chuckles. The fault is not entirely his. Feig's script and direction cannot decide what to do with him. He is, by turns, a super spy and then inept on a level that beats Cooper's supposed weaknesses. He crosses continents in pursuit of the bad guys one minute, appearing in convincing disguise at a party late on, before falling over a door a few scenes later. Other 'stars' make less of an impact. Jude Law could be anyone, playing anyone in one of the blandest roles imaginable. Peter Serafinowicz gets a couple of laughs in another one-note role: sex pest assistant.

To finish something close to misery, Feig includes what is quickly becoming the least welcome sure-thing element of the US Comedy: the celebrity cameo, complete with terrible acting, wobbly jokes and nothing to do with the film whatsoever. Spy's own attempt at this ticks all of those boxes on a level not seen since Pitch Perfect 2 a few weeks ago. If only it had spent more time on the laughter instead.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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