Sunday, June 28, 2015


I'm not a big fan of the Fat Man Falls Down genre, as I've mentioned over the years. My favorite fat guy actor/comedian was John Candy and I never remember him falling down. I'm sure he must have, but mostly I remember him for his combination of everyman haplessness and everyman decency.

As you might imagine, then, I've got an even stronger aversion to Fat Woman Falls Down, even as a concept. Double-standards, sure. But I've got room for all kinds of standards, double, triple, quadruple, 50 shades of, whatever.

Spy has a 95% critical rating on RT and an 85% rating from the audience, though, and that's just rare as hen's teeth for any kind of comedy. And for spy comedies? I guess they're not universally bad, but they probably hit less often than horror films.

Still, Paul Feig is a funny dude, and Melissa McCarthy reasonably so, as well as being a charming actress, so off we went, with a certain amount of trepidation.

The short version? It works. They don't do the fat-schtick slapstick too much and Feig for sure gives his character a sense of dignity-while-suffering-indignities that McCarthy is more than equal to the task of pulling off. And there are a lot of other very good things about it, which largely offset the not-so-good things, at least in terms of a summer popcorn flick.

The premise, which may not be obvious from the trailers, is that support crew person Susan "Coop" Cooper (McCarthy) ends up going into the field when—get this—the security records for CIA's field agents are all compromised. (Couldn't ever happen, right? What a larf!) She has to avenge/take over for her field agent (Jude Law) whom, naturally, she's in love with, but who also degrades her.

So, what works: They don't, for the most part, make "Coop" (McCarthy) into a magical super-spy. This falls apart at the end of second act where she sees things as though she's still at her computer. I thought maybe I missed the explanation for this, but if so, so did the kids.

By the way, the idea of having a set of eyes watching the surrounding environment alerting you so that you can do all those super-human spy tricks is the only realistic explanation for the those sorts of heroic antics I've ever heard. I rather liked that.

When Coop goes into the field, she's given remarkably unromantic cover stories (Divorced mom, cat-ady, Beaches fan) and spy "gadgets" (hemorrhoid pads, stool softeners, Beaches watch). It's hit-and-miss joke time, with all but one of the items never coming back.

The circumstances of the plot force her to be more engaged than she's supposed to be. That worked well. At one point, she's in a position to compromise the mission, and she uses her friend instead of trying to go it alone. That also worked well.

There's a lot of swearing. It sort of works at first. It wore me out halfway through.

The plot twists are pretty standard but not really the point.

Then there's the action. And, here's the thing: McCarthy is really fat. (They've surrounded her with women who are freakishly thin, too, which I thought might have been...I dunno...some sort of statement.) Now, I've talked about "body types wrong for the part" here before, from both angles (ha!) but it's egregious here.

McCarthy waddles. She's in several pursuit-on-foot sequences and even though they play a lot of them for laughs, it's obvious she's just not suited to the action. The kids didn't notice, and you might not either, but her stunt double is probably 50 pounds lighter than she is. She did better in The Heat, I thought, though that may have been lower demands and more careful editing.

It's not just weight, either: She's 44. You can point to guys like Keanu Reeves or Jason Statham, but: a) They're guys; b) They make their living staying in shape. Even much older guys, like Stallone and Schwarzenegger, can pull a lot of this stuff off because they've worked hard their whole lives at it. (And the guys who don't, like Harrison Ford, end up looking goofy in action movies as they get older, too.)

The glamor scenes are a bit off, too, in that regard. The makeovers don't work so well, making me wonder if they should've called in Lisa from Lee Lee's.

It feels a little pander-y to me. And there's a whole, I dunno, universe continuity problem because, you know, in the real world McCarthy wouldn't seem extraordinarily large. But this is Hollywood-land where everyone is super lean, and "fat" is, like, America Ferrera or Whitney Thompson.

But these are quibbles with a largely entertaining movie.

Jason Statham is hilarious. Steals the show as a parody of his super-intense persona. Jude Law does a great job as the spy who doesn't love her. Allison Janney is typically perfect as the boss with no sense of humor. Miranda Hart, as the pal, did not annoy me as much as she doubtless could.

Rose Byrne reprises her role from Bridesmaids as the beautiful-but-bitchy whatever. (That's some kind of weird chick dynamic right there.) Rounding out the Fieg-chick-cicrle is Jamie Denbo (from The Heat). The Flower was excited to see "Firefly" alumnus Morena Baccarin as the perfect sweet-and-capable girl spy.

Bobby Cannavale does a really fine job with what's probably the most clichéd character in the film. (I guess stereotyping men is still cool. And Italians.)

Anyway, the kids both liked it, and more than I did. The Boy's expectations were quite low and this well exceeded them. I got that same sort of feeling I get from a lot of mainstream films: I'm enjoying this now and I'll forget it as soon as I walk out of the theater.

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