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Spy ••••

Spy2015_TeaserPosterStarring: Melissa McCarthyRose ByrneJude Law
Director: Paul Feig
Screenplay: Paul Feig
Action/Comedy/Crime, Rated: R
Running Time: 120 minutes
Release Date: June 5, 2015


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I spy with my little eye, a movie about a female spy.

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

No lie, our latest movie is Spy, starring the multi-talented Melissa McCarthy. Let’s recap.

We’re introduced to Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) who works for the CIA as an agent. But she’s not a field agent – she’s relegated to the vermin-infested basement of Langley.  She supports bigger-than-life spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law) by watching him on satellite feeds and gives him pointers in his earpiece. Cooper is secretly in love with Fine and is despondent when Fine is killed on her watch.

The CIA needs to know the location of a nuclear bomb, but a huge security breach has exposed the identities of all active agents. Cooper volunteers to tail Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) who knows the whereabouts of the bomb. Agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) vehemently objects to Cooper’s involvement but is overruled by CIA chief Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney). Cooper earns Rayna’s trust by saving her life, and with help from her CIA buddy Nancy (Miranda Hart), Cooper ends up being more than any of the bad guys can handle.

Scott, I was prepared for this to be another poop-fart-puke fest with a lot of swearing and embarrassing stereotypes. Instead, we got a hilarious stereotype-breaking poop-fart-puke fest with a lot of swearing. I was pleasantly surprised. Melissa McCarthy delivers a very layered portrayal of a woman who is at first marginalized and later emerges as confident and in control. Spy was a welcome change from such movies as 2013’s The Heat where McCarthy is played strictly for yucks. In this film, she becomes a comedic feminist hero.

One could say that Spy has all of the comedic elements of The Heat but with a more intelligent and progressive portrayal of women in the heroic role. Like you, Greg, I expected Spy to be the kind of movie that would require me to turn off my brain and enjoy some silly slapstick humor. But Spy is much more than a fun romp – although it is that for sure. This movie is about the successful empowerment of women in roles traditionally assigned to men.

Every woman character in Spy is more competent than she seems to be, and every male character is less competent than he seems to be. And yet this role reversal isn’t as insulting to men as it is designed to honor the capabilities of women. Susan Cooper is a woman who starts out lacking self-confidence but when thrown into the fire she turns out to be just as kick-ass as James Bond and Indiana Jones combined. In keeping with the classic hero journey, she receives help along the way from sidekicks and mentors. The hero transformation is fun and rewarding to witness.

Susan Cooper is truly a transformed lone hero. She starts out the film grovelling at Fine’s feet. She’d do anything for him and has a secret love for him. When he goes missing, she attempts to volunteer for the assignment but is laughed at by her male counterparts. Gradually, as Cooper enters and masters the special world of the field agent, she becomes more and more competent. In the end she saves the day and realizes that she doesn’t need Fine or any man. She is fully self-actualized. A true hero’s journey.

The supporting cast in Spy is a joy to watch, too. Agent Rick Ford plays a key role as the representative of the old male mentality in the CIA. He is insulting to Cooper and overstates his accomplishments and abilities to an absurd degree. The falseness of his bravado is revealed in humorous and humiliating ways, and Cooper ends up saving his sorry ass more than a few times. The main villain, Rayna, is ruthless and greedy in ways that are the equal of any male villain in the James Bond canon. Cooper’s sidekick, Nancy, actually goes on her own transformative hero journey as well.

Spy is a fun and funny parody of spy films – a sugar-coated feminist romp. I laughed out loud and cheered for Cooper. While it had a few moments of gross-out humor, they were easily overshadowed by clever writing and deft acting by McCarthy. I am happy to award 4 out of 5 Reels for Spy.

Melissa McCarthy outdoes herself as she transforms from a mousy, insecure analyst into a fully realized field agent. What could have been a movie about the humiliation of a woman in a man’s world turns into a celebration of growth. I give Susan Cooper 5 out of 5 Heroes.

I’m in full agreement with you on the supporting cast, Scott. The men were all played for yucks and the women were mainly played for competence. I especially liked Allison Janney as Crocker – Cooper’s boss. Statham’s character was a true clown. I give the supporting cast 4 out of 5 Cast points.

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Spy surprised me by being much more than a comedy and satire of the spy movie genre. This movie turns gender roles on their head by portraying subjugated women as highly skilled, crafty, and competent CIA operatives. We learn that underestimating women spies is a bad idea for both our country and for the men who dare to keep women in their metaphorical (and in this movie, literal) basements. For a fun and thought-provoking two hours of entertainment, I award this movie 4 Reels out of 5.

The hero journey appears here in full form. Cooper goes the complete journey and has assistance from a worthy and also underestimated sidekick and a mentor CIA boss who has faith in Cooper’s abilities. She finds her self-confidence and proves that she – and many other women – are worthy of achieving great things if given the chance. I’m happy to award Cooper 4 Heroes out of 5 here.

The oppositional characters are entertaining to watch and appear in two forms. First, Cooper is opposed by her own male colleague, Rick Ford, who comes across as a fool in the way that he overestimates his own abilities and undervalues women. Second, Cooper encounters a formidable foe in Rayna. We don’t know much about Ford or Rayna other than they represent roadblocks for Cooper’s heroism. Still, they are a worthy pair of oppositional characters. The rest of the supporting cast shines, too. Like you, I’ll award the cast a rating of 4 out of 5, Greg.

 Movie: reel-4 Cast: cast-4 Hero: h-logo-4

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