Spy is a nice little comedy that succeeds in doing something no other film really has -- turning Melissa McCarthy in to a leading lady without making her a caricature or uncomfortably poking fun at her weight. Yes, it is possible to do that and get plenty of laughs -- figures that it is another collaboration with director Paul Feig that does the trick.
McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a CIA agent who has spent a decade as a desk jockey, talking field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) through dangerous mission after dangerous mission. When her partner is taken out by Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), the daughter of an arms dealer looking to sell a nuclear weapon, and the identities of the rest of the field agents are compromised, Cooper is thrust in to the field herself.
Cooper's self-confidence is fragile, but hardly broken. She passed the same training Agent Fine did and she volunteers for active duty. Much of her aw-shucksness comes from the people around her who lack faith in her ability -- her boss Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) who puts her in a series of humiliating cat-lady disguises and directs her to collect reconnaissance only, a fellow agent played by Jason Statham who goes rogue because he believes she is unfit for the job, and so on.
Cooper isn't so much determined to prove everyone wrong as she is determined to do a good job. The result is that she winds up playing the straight role, with a few acid-tongued moments thrown in for good measure, while the likes of Byrne, the hilariously delusional Statham, and her fellow desk jockey/best friend Nancy (Miranda Hart) are left to scoop up many of the film's funniest scenes.
Spy is a send-up of the spy film, of course. Even moreso, it is a send-up of the typical characters played by its stars. McCarthy reluctantly dons unflattering clothing and wigs with a sigh, and then plays against type by physically outmatching the anonymous baddies sent to do her in. Statham, playing a variation of his force-of-nature character from Furious 7, boasts gruffly about his past exploits even as he comically bungles moment after moment during this mission.
This is amusing stuff, but I would go no further than that. The greatest achievement of Spy is in showing that Melissa McCarthy’s range as a comedy lead. That has positive implications for her future specifically — but I’m afraid this film will dissolve from my memory over time. If you want a great spy film send-up, I’d still direct you to Austin Powers.