Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The funniest movie of the year!

Finally I can recommend a Hollywood comedy that’s actually FUNNY. Go see SPY. I can’t remember the last time I watched a supposed comedy and laughed out loud repeatedly. Or at all.

Thank you Paul Feig. It’s like you’ve taken the best of Judd Apatow and eliminated all the pretense, indulgence, bullshit, and Adam Sandler and crafted an action-comedy that is both smart and silly.

And Melissa McCarthy is flat-out hilarious. With this role she takes her place among the best screen clowns of all-time. And in the hands of Paul Feig she absolutely soars.

SPY is a pitch-perfect spoof of the James Bond genre, down to the opening title sequence complete with a Shirley Bassey-esque theme song that makes no sense whatsoever. Along the way, Feig doesn’t miss a trick, touching on every Bond convention from the high stakes Baccarat game to the formal reception to the exotic worldwide locations. On the screen a graphic will come on that says Rome and a few seconds later one that adds Italy – as if audiences needed to be told this.   There are big laughs, little laughs, laughs on the way to other laughs. 

The key to the comedy, and it’s always a good lesson, is that everything is played straight. No one in this film knows they’re in a comedy. It might as well be an espionage thriller but the situations are absurd and the dialogue is funny.

McCarthy is also surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast. Allison Janney never misses, Bobby Cannavale is solid, Rose Byrne is always comic gold (Why isn’t she a major star yet? Or at least Elizabeth Banks?), but the real surprise here is Jason Stratham. You know him as the perpetually scowling bad ass bad guy who has killed more men in any one movie than Jack Bauer has in a whole season (except the third). But in SPY Jason satirizes the role. And crushes it. What does it say when Jason Stratham is funnier than Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Seth Rogen, and certainly Adam Sandler?

Is SPY a comedy classic? Is it SOME LIKE IT HOT? Is it ANIMAL HOUSE? Is it VOLUNTEERS (Okay, had to slip that one in there)? No. But it truly delivers. How refreshing to sit through a summer comedy and not squirm, check your watch, groan, fall asleep, or hate your life. Hey, by today’s standards maybe it is a classic.

38 comments:

Richard Rothrock said...

I gave this a pass because I, frankly, have given up on Melissa McCarthy. My wife and I could only stand a half hour of BRIDESMAIDS. I tried watching her in THE HEAT and IDENTITY THIEF and TAMMY. Not much better. It seemed she was doing the same character over and over in all those movies and, no, I did not find her or those movies funny. But based on your recommendation I might give this a try.

This made me think again about your column on Steve Martin and comedy. I thought he was hilarious but these days when Will Farrell & Kristen Wiig & Bill Hader get up and do the same clueless, self-deluded persona, for me it is just awkward, unfunny, difficult to tell where the laughs are, and it always goes on way way way too long. It seems hip comedy these days is all about watching people squirm in embarrassing situations.

Funny you should mention James Bond: I screened some of Bond stuff for my college age students. The guys hated it because they found it unbelievable (though they fall all over themselves if it is a superhero film) and the women just found the whole thing insufferably sexist and demanded I turn it off.

Jason said...

"Will Farrell & Kristen Wiig & Bill Hader get up and do the same clueless, self-deluded persona"

Did you see Will and Kristen in their new Lifetime movie? It's.. interesting to watch them play roles totally straight, in a movie that's basically a parody of every Lifetime movie ever made (but played totally straight). "A Deadly Adoption"

Richard Rothrock said...

Jason, I haven't seen that one. I loved Will Farrell in "Stranger Than Fiction" and have liked him when he does supporting roles in films like "Wedding Crashers" and "The Lego Movie". Ditto for Wiig in films like "Paul". It is only when they star and do their usual schtick that they don't work for me.

Oat Willie said...

I'll wait for it to come to TBS. It's not a movie until cable has stretched its time slot to 5 hours and pumped in the bilgewater of commercials and promos. "Very Funny."

Roseann said...

You are so right, Ken, it is a classic.

Phillip said...

Statham is really funny in CRANK as well

I really liked THE SKELETON TWINS which starred Wiig and Hader, but it was hardly a comedy. Ty Burrell was very good in it too.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Please, Melissa McCarthy has pretty much become the female Steve Carrell: she's in everything right now, just like Carrell was almost ten years ago, and whereas Carrell's schtick was always playing flat, wooden, deadpan characters, McCarthy's schtick is always playing - what else - revolting fat slobs.

RockGolf said...

Completely agree, Ken. And, remarkably, the action scenes and fights hold up pretty well too. If you're easily offended by vulgar language, skip it, but otherwise terrific.
I also like that it assumes some intelligence on the part of the audience and doesn't have to spell everything out. They even manage to make the exposition funny, which is a real feat in itself.
And, of course, Alison Janney. Can she do anything wrong?

Rockgolf, again said...

By the way, this bodes really well for the Ghostbusters remake, doesn't it?

Beth Seaver said...

Joseph, if you saw the movie, you would see that Melissa is far from a "revolting fat slob." Sorry she isn't pretty enough to look at for you, but I think she's incredibly talented and in the right role she kills. Paul Feig really seems to know which roles bring out her best.

Bob Zirunkel said...

@ Joseph Scarbrough:

Let him who is thin cast the first stone...

Igor said...

I liked "Spy", and I love Statham, ever since I saw him in "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels". And then in "Snatch".

Thing is, just from those movies it's clear he has comedy chops, and so I've been surprised by the many reviews/comments I've read that express surprise that he can do comedy.

Now, here's my complaint - In "Spy", it's as though he'd been told to be cartoonish. In a way, he's the only one who doesn't seem to be playing it straight, who does seem to know he's in a comedy. And I'm blaming that on Feig, because if Statham showed us what he'd shown us in Lock, Stock and in Snatch, I think his performance would have played much better.

Igor said...

*SPOLIER*

... and to add: Near the end, where Statham's character finally has to acknowledge McCarthy's character has done a good job, as he's walking away from her he shrugs and smirks - but in a cartoonish way, not a Jason Statham way.

Hamid said...

I loved it. Statham's exchange with Alison Janney's character about the "face-off machine" is hilarious.

My only quibbles are that it's a bit too long - comedies can rarely justify being 2 hours - and it had a couple of instances of pointless pop culture referencing, like Miranda Hart's character saying she's read all the Hunger Games books, which is only meant to get laughter based on audience recognition of something so embedded in pop culture rather than from an actual joke. But I can forgive it that as it only happens a couple of times, unlike some so-called comedies which are nothing but pop culture references.

Joseph

Your comments about Melissa McCarthy are incredibly nasty and mean spirited.

Richard John Marcej said...

Don't forget Miranda Hart who's hilarious as the deadpan sidekick. In fact I'd love to see a film starring her and Melissa. I think they play well off each other, are deft comedians and even visually, a kind of female looking Laural & Hardy. Hart, the tall, lanky kind of dim one and McCarthy the shorter, squat impatient one.

Dixon Steele said...

I enjoyed the movie and found it interesting that they went for the R rating, due to language only. I'm not put off by profanity, but while the picture is doing well, they might've kept it PG-13 and not really lost anything.

Barbara C. said...

I think part of Joseph's point is that McCarthy has been constantly cast to play "fat, revolting, slobs" in almost all of the movies she's done in the past five years. I haven't seen the movies, but that's what all of the previews depicted her as. Honestly, I felt that they've been trying to brand her as a female John Candy.

I've seen clips and interviews about "Spy", and she seems to be playing a more normal person in an extraordinary situation and her weight doesn't seem to be used as part of her persona for this. She was great and fun and funny on Gilmore Girls and her weight had no relevance.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Yes, Barbara, you're so far the only one who understood the point I was making. And again, it also doesn't help that McCarthy is seemingly in everything these days -- again, that was a problem with Steve Carrell for the longest time: he was seemingly in everything, and always played the same one-note character - deadpan, wooden, no range of emotion. Like Barbara paraphrased, this is McCarthy's problem, she almost always plays the same one-note character - the revolting fat slob. Even if she was "thin" or "pretty", as both Beth and Bob's sarcasm-laddled comments suggested, she'd probably end up type-casted as another kind of unlikeable character, probably such as the awkwardly stupid/stupidly awkward kind of characters Kristen Wiig seems to play, or probably some kind of hoe. John Candy, on the other hand, that man was truly one of a kind, I don't think McCarthy could measure up to his legacy, no matter how they try to brand her.

Ralph C. said...

I'm very happy for Paul Feig, who was the creator of one of the best t.v. shows I've ever seen, "Freaks and Geeks". I hope this movie does huge box-office.

MikeK.Pa. said...

My wife and I love Melissa McCarthy. From everything I've read, success hasn't gone to her head and she's a generally nice person. You root harder for those actors to succeed. After the horrific TAMMY I was afraid she was getting into a rut playing the same character movie after movie (like Sandler and Ferrell). Put this on the list to see this weekend. Thanks.

Andrew said...

Ken, I can't wait to hear your review of Inside Out. I saw it with my two kids. Pixar is back, returning to classic form. Great movie.

Richard John Marcej said...

Well Joseph, I guess you didn't see "St. Vincent" then. Her performance in that movie proved to me she has more to offer. And since you brought up John Candy (another very funny performer who appeared in a lot of crappy films) I'd put Melissa's performance in "St. Vincent" alongside John's work in "Only the Lonely", along the comedian to show a softer, more vulnerable side.

Kansas State Polytechnic Junior College said...

This was the best comedy I've seen in a long while. However, I felt it would've been better if they cut 25-30% of the jokes. I felt they were getting repetitive by the end and forcing/cramming as many jokes as they could in the last 10 mins. I have to disagree about Bobby C. being solid. I couldn't tell what kind of accent he was trying to use.

Mike D. said...

Joseph, you are a very shallow human being.

Jim said...

This was a great movie, but you forgot to mention Miranda Hart. She was very funny in this movie, and I hope to see more of her in the years to come. It's a shame that none of the TV networks or production companies haven't developed a sitcome around her yet.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Mike I just love how apparently having a difference of opinion on Ken's blog automatically makes someone scum of the earth. Matter of fact, I believe it was actually you -or possibly somebody else, I don't remember- who quite some time ago said not liking excessive sexual content in film and television that Hollywood seems to continually shove down our throats all the time anymore somehow makes me a repressed and uncultured jerkass (I had no idea filth could be so cultured).

That said, I'm just glad we weren't discussing Neil Patrick Harris: now there's somebody you can't get away from; though at least his career of subverting the typical washed-up former child star who turns to drug and alcohol abuse path that so many others have taken is quite respectable.

Dave Arnott said...

*** SLIGHT SPOILER, KINDA ***

I expected this to be funny (well, I hoped it would be... and it was). What I didn't expect was for the movie to also be smart (well, until the ending, anyway). The plot was actually... a PLOT. And how McCarthy's character saves herself halfway through was both a surprising choice, as well as a genuinely interesting one. Non-comedies don't often nail that. So I forgive them their big dumb ending.

Hamid said...

Joseph

There are references to pre-marital sex in Spy, something I remember you said you find obscene, so you definitely won't want to see that. If I remember correctly, a couple of characters even kiss.

Mike said...

@Jim: If this is of interest, Hart wrote her own (very successful) UK sitcom Miranda, which is on Hulu.

RockGolf said...

@Bob Zirunkel

That's not fair! They get bigger targets to aim at!

MikeN said...

It's spelled Statham.

For awhile, I thought you were being sarcastic in your review, but now I think I'll go watch it.

Anyone have any idea why the verifier doesn't ask any questions? It only happens when I am using my Windows 8 laptop.

Amanda said...

Joseph Scarbrough said...

That said, I'm just glad we weren't discussing Neil Patrick Harris: now there's somebody you can't get away from; though at least his career of subverting the typical washed-up former child star who turns to drug and alcohol abuse path that so many others have taken is quite respectable.


Why are you glad we weren't discussing Neil Patrick Harris? What could you possibly have against him, other than the fact that he works a lot, which seems to offend you. He's a married man with a drop-dead handsome husband and two children. You don't get much more middle class decent and upstanding than that.

Storm said...

I was already kinda interested, but now that I know Miranda Hart is in it, I HAVE to see it; I love that big gawky freak to bits. No shade intended, but part of the reason I adore her is that she often reminds me of a friendly, sweet dog that has NO idea how big she is and constantly knocks things over.

Her performance as Chummy on the BBC's "Call the Midwife" is sublime; naturally funny and very touching. Just like the rest of that show, she makes me both laugh and weep. 6'1" of awesomeness.

Cheers, thanks a lot,

Storm

Todd Everett said...

Somebody didn't see "Spy." Not only doesn't McCarthy play "fat," neither (as observed above) is her character a slob.

Can anybody argue against my notion that John Candy never* played a "fat" character, and Danny DeVito never* played a "short" man? The actors certainly fitted those definitions, but I can't remember a case of either of them using the characteristic for comic effect -- or even some other character pointing it out. DeVito was a lot of things in Taxi, but I can't remember anybody making a big deal of his stature. And he played Arnold Schwarzenegger's twin, for Pete's sake

* what -- never? Well, hardly ever

Jim said...

@Mike: I am familar with her show on Hulu. I think that the networks are missing out on her talent. Her show is quirky enough and diferent that she could get viewers here in America.

jbryant said...

Joseph, I guess you should thank your lucky stars you didn't grow up in the 30s or 40s, when movie stars routinely appeared in five or six films a year. Today it's rare that a given actor plays the lead in more than two films per year.

Since her breakthrough in BRIDESMAIDS in 2011, Melissa McCarthy has been the lead in IDENTITY THIEF and THE HEAT (both 2013), TAMMY and ST. VINCENT (both 2014) and SPY (2015). Looks like she'll have two more in 2016. Given your distaste for her, I'm guessing you haven't seen more than two or three of those. Since you think she is in "seemingly everything" these days, I assume the accent is on "seemingly," and that your problem has more to do with the ubiquity of marketing than actual exposure to her films.

Kaleberg said...

Danny deVito did use his short stature. He often played extremely tough characters, and his size led people, including many in the audience, to underestimate him. Melissa McCarthy did use her large size in the movie and in a similar way. A lot of the gags revolved around people assuming her to be out of shape and incompetent, because she was overweight. In practice, like deVito, she was someone you wouldn't want to tangle with in a fight, physical or mental.

We loved the movie. It was a great Bond send up. McCarthy did a great jobs. The writers did a great job. We really did not like Bridesmaids. We walked out about 15 minutes in, but we stayed through the credits for Spy.

John said...

(psst: Statham, no r)

Thanks for a great blog, BTW.