Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:


Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: "We don't have bums in our town, Marge, and if we did they wouldn't rush, they'd be allowed to go at their own pace."

Rating Using Random Objects Related To The Film: Three-and-a-half razor-edged bowler hats out of five:

Brief Plot Synopsis: Mild-mannered CIA analyst takes to the field to combat terrorists, body shamers.

Tagline: "One of the guys. One of the spies."

Better Tagline: "Casino Royale with cheese."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) has spent her CIA career behind the desk, guiding the exploits of dashing agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) in the field. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes (Captain Tragedy!) during the pursuit of Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), a woman who knows the whereabouts of a missing nuclear bomb and the true identities of the Agency's other secret agents. Because of this exposure, Cooper volunteers for the field, much to the consternation of stud agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) and Cooper's boss, deputy director Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney), who nonetheless agrees, sending Cooper into harm's way for the first time.

"Critical" Analysis: Even with the pedigree of McCarthy and writer/director Paul Feig, who've previously collaborated on Bridesmaids and The Heat, I must admit, I was sorely attempted to duck out of this screening to go see Mad Max: Fury Road one more time. I'm not proud of it. And I'm glad I didn't, because Spy is not just a hilarious send-up of Bond movie tropes, but it finally gives us a worthy showcase for McCarthy's talents.

The double-0 sendup stuff starts right off the bat, from the musical score to Fine's early mission to the opening credits (Ivy Levan's "Who Can You Trust" is a better Bond theme than Sheryl Crow or Jack White ever managed), we know what universe the movie's operating in. Agents Fine and Ford are also stand-ins for Her Majesty's favorite spook, with Law as a might-have-been Bond and Statham recently expressing his desire to acquire a license to kill for himself.

But Spy is the first movie to utilize McCarthy to her fullest, finally giving her a character that runs the gamut from meek desk jockey to action hero, with a brief (albeit not brief enough, honestly) detour into the profane McCarthy we've seen before in her previous Feig films and the end credits of This is 40. Unfortunately, a little of that goes a long way. There is, admittedly, some good give-and-take between McCarthy and Byrne during those scenes, but the only time I really felt myself disengaging from the movie was when Cooper was trying to convince Boyanov she was hired to protect her by hurling abuse at everyone.

Honestly, I think 20th Century Fox marketed this poorly. There are absolutely slapstick elements to the movie, but highlighting stuff like McCarthy falling over in a moped in the previews distracts from what ends up being an extremely solid performance. Then again, maybe they're trying to hide the twist: that Cooper is actually extremely competent and — once she ekes out a few early successes — evolves into quite the formidable agent.

But to believe that, I'd have to trust the strategic thinking of the studio that decided we needed a CGI Peanuts movie.

Statham is perhaps the biggest surprise. We've seen drier comedic turns from him in early Guy Ritchie movies like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch ("Zee Germans?"), but Ford is a perfect 180 from the usual stone-faced merchant of mayhem he portrays. The guy may never be 007, but here he's a perfectly workable ... Man with the Golden Gag? Spy Who LOL'ed Me? I'll work on it. Oh, and Miranda Hart, who plays Cooper's best friend, is also outstanding.

Come to think of it, when was the last time there was a (non-Disney) movie where both the hero and the villain were women? Aliens?

Does some of what transpires onscreen strain credulity? I'll just say this, if you scoff at the possibility Cooper could hang from the landing skid of a helicopter or win a knife fight, I'm presuming you expressed the same skepticism when 007 barefoot water-skied behind a Cessna in License to Kill? Or para-surfed a tsunami full of icebergs in Die Another Day, yes? No? Shut up.

Spy is very good, and better than anything McCarthy has done by a fair piece. It's no Mad Max: Fury Road, but we can't have everything. 
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar