This Paul Feig-directed project starts strongly, mocking typical superspy actioners with a barrage of rapid-fire witticisms and general buffoonery that betrays an insightful eye for both pantomime and the subtle absurdities of espionage adventure. The majority of the cast offers a notable chemistry and the caricatures of spy film denizens draw laughs without the need for any extreme parodies like those found in “Austin Powers” or “Spy Hard.” The use of colorful vulgarities within the dialogue and a predilection for portraying violence creates several moments worthy of guffaws, but at a protracted two hours, the creativity wears off before the picture ends. Prior to the lackluster conclusion, however, Melissa McCarthy and crew brandish a polished comedic expertise to poke fun at every major facet of the subgenre.
Desk-bound CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) longs for both the affection of suave international spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law) and the adrenaline of being in the field. When Fine is murdered while tracking the whereabouts of a tactical nuclear weapon, Cooper sees one of her dreams dashed and the other realized as she heads to Paris, France on a dangerous reconnaissance mission to pick up the trail of the deadly device. Dodging assassins, amorous agents, and rogue operative Rick Ford (Jason Statham), Cooper must go deep undercover to infiltrate the guard of vicious vixen Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), retrieve the bomb, and take revenge for her fallen comrade.
It begins not with raunchy gags but with genuinely surprising humor – the kind exhibited by a grossly inept government agency engaging in unexpected maneuvers. It’s all an obvious spoof of James Bond, complete with an opening title theme song (performed by Ivy Levan) that is essentially good enough and serious enough to be a real 007 tune. It’s this continual shifting between pure comedy and modest sincerity, however, that causes “Spy” to outstay its welcome. The running time is also clearly too much for this manner of satirization.
Instead of embracing slapstick and backchat wholeheartedly, this espionage parody tosses in action sequences and fight choreography that simply don’t fit with the humorous fumbling of covert operations. Characters die grisly deaths or sustain gruesome injuries as if “Spy” hopes to be perceived as a shoot-‘em-up picture of more severity than the PG-13 productions it imitates. When the adventure and terrorist interactions aren’t lighthearted, the comic relief has to work overtime, which ruins both elements simultaneously. Jason Statham, with his constant cursing and demoralizing insults, is most effective because his role regularly drops out of sight (his repartee with McCarthy is the highlight of the show). Miranda Hart’s supporting turn isn’t so fortunate; she gradually increases her screen presence until it becomes overbearing. Even Byrne gets to deliver laughs, despite playing a villainess so vile that she doesn’t deserve the redemption she ultimately receives.
The longer the movie goes on, the sillier and less cohesive the characters become. The awkward, unbefitting, lonely, unaccomplished secretary is a perfect counterpart to the suave, sophisticated, confident superspy; but the role reversals, escalating incompetence, and deterioration of consistency in behaviors rapidly destroys what started as a decent double agent send-up. The accidentally successful apprehensions similarly parallel the excessive supporting actor screentime – they work best in the smallest of doses.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)