Credit: Larry Horricks

A dastardly terrorist has a loose nuke. All the CIA’s top field agents have been exposed. And the good guys’ last hope has to jet from one exotic European locale to another to track down the bad guys and save the day while the clock ticks. It sounds familiar, but today, the role of James Bond or Ethan Hunt will be played by Melissa McCarthy.

In Paul Feig’s action-comedy Spy, McCarthy portrays Susan Cooper, a Langley desk-jockey who’s settled for being the loyal eye-in-the-sky for the debonair secret agent (Jude Law) on whom she has a secret crush. But when her handsome hero runs out of luck while trying to pursue the Hungarian beauty (Rose Byrne) shopping a suitcase nuke to terrorists, mild, unassuming Susan is the only agent who can get close to the action, precisely because she looks like Melissa McCarthy—or, as she complains about the unflattering wig and identity she’s given, “I look like someone’s homophobic aunt!”

But Susan isn’t as feeble as she looks, and despite some hilarious interference from Jason Statham—who plays a blundering but braggadocio action hero—she successfully infiltrates Byrne’s inner circle. “Cooper turns out to be deceptively lethal in the field, not only kicking Euro goon ass, but barking so many hilarious insults—the best of which are too filfthy to print,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty, in his B+ review. “You’ll wonder how many were in Feig’s script and how many McCarthy’s dizzyingly dirty mind hatched on the spot, especially during her venomous verbal cutting contests with Byrne and her scenes with an insatiably horny Italian agent (Peter Serafinowicz).”

For the rest of Nashawaty’s review and a sampling of opinions from other critics around the country, scroll below.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)

“She’s always stood out in a sea of cinematic sameness. McCarthy’s mind just seems to race in a faster gear than her costars, allowing her to blast off arias of profane put-downs with such speed and demented originality that her mouth practically shoots sparks. As a physical comedian, she possesses the greatest gift of all: She’s totally unafraid of looking stupid.”

A.O. Scott (New York Times)

“Even better is the blithe feminism that makes Spy feel at once revolutionary and like no big deal. It’s not just that the movie aces the Bechdel test. It didn’t even need to study. The movie isn’t uplifting; it’s buoyant.”

Steven Rea (Philadelphia Inquirer) ▲

“For all the over-the-top comedy, zigzagging chases, and choreographed fight scenes, Spy is very much a tale of female empowerment. The lead is a woman. Her boss is a woman. The antagonist is a woman. The best friend is a woman. And they all get their jobs done, while the men run around doing what men do—preening, pawing, getting in the way, and getting a better pay grade. There’s a point to be made, but it’s not belabored.”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)

“Feig has become the George Cukor for early 21st century female stars, but instead of urbane dialogue, flattering camera angles and carefully pitched emotion, he gives them swagger, sexual confidence and an armamentarium of shocking profanities.”

Wesley Morris (Grantland)

“Feig might be the first director who is getting away with the Muppets’ idea of comedy in a non-Muppets movie. Normally, I’d tire of all the laughing, and there was a moment during the second half when I had to stop for my health. I took the break to reappreciate McCarthy. … Only Bette Midler and Whoopi Goldberg have as many pitches of profanity as McCarthy does. But she also has that quality that a lot of star comedians have, in which audiences laugh before she’s even done anything.”

Justin Chang (Variety)

“McCarthy’s performance is a never-ending succession of priceless moments. For all her strengths as a verbal and physical performer, there’s a real core of emotion here, too; remarkably, she manages to pull all these disparate extremes of violence and comedy into a stirring, coherent portrait of a woman motivated by love, loyalty and a courageous if unrealized sense of her own inner worth.”

Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times)

Spy starts to wheeze a bit as it reaches the finish line. This is not a story that needs two hours to be told. Also, I could have done without the mice and the bats, and the projectile vomiting. Gross isn’t always funny. What does work, in every scene, is Melissa McCarthy’s performance. She’s as funny and as winning as anyone in the movies these days.”

Tom Russo (Boston Globe)

“Susan decides that acting tough is her best play for getting through an especially dicey part of the mission. But it’s at this point, when McCarthy and Feig give us more of what we’d been primed for, that the movie starts to drag a little. The exchanges aren’t as consistently sharp, and the physicality feels routine. When Susan launches a foul-mouthed rant at Rayna and the villainess coolly rejoins, ‘Take it down a notch,’ it’s good advice.”

Mark Olsen (Los Angeles Times)

“It’s the relationship between McCarthy and Byrne that gives the film its comedic spine and true soul as they approach each other warily, never quite sure of the other’s true intentions. Watching the actresses together as their characters establish a begrudging mutual respect and something like friendship, such as in a sequence on a private jet that skillfully slides from talking to fighting, is a thing of pure joy.”

“She has subtle moments of comic acting, in which she has to react to people with a complexity of emotion. She gets to show her abilities as a straight man, suppressing frustration at the clueless people around her. The movie showcases her slapstick ability, too, her inspired silliness; and it also gives her a chance to be aggressive and verbally abusive. Nobody is better than McCarthy at over-the-top comic hostility.”

David Edelstein (New York)

“Byrne seems to be able to do anything, and in comedy terms, her Rayna is a career best. The key is breezy understatement. Her Rayna is the ultimate mean girl, but her put-downs are so light and insouciant that she just seems to exhale them, as if she knows she has more beauty, style, and smarts than anyone alive and hardly needs to force the issue.”

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 75

Rotten Tomatoes: 95 percent

Rated: R

Length: 117 minutes

Starring Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Jude Law

Directed by Paul Feig

Distributor: Fox

2015 movie
  • Movie
  • 119 minutes