2 Stars — Shallow

Spy stars Melissa McCarthy, who plays Susan Cooper, a super-spy — or better yet, a superficial spy — in this slapstick version of a James Bond 007 film.

In only a few short years, McCarthy has emerged as one of the queens of comedy in Hollywood. In almost every role, she portrays a frumpy, overweight foil to a dashing co-star. In many ways, she and her on-screen partners are the latest versions of Laurel and Hardy, but with a lot more crude jokes and profanities thrown in.

However, to its credit, Spy is well written and comes off as a step above the usual onslaught of crude and boorish behavior for which McCarthy is famous.

The story revolves around the fact that the CIA has found its agents’ identities compromised and they need to send someone into a highly dangerous situation whom no one would suspect.  Not content to idly stand by and collect information, Cooper lets out her inner “James Bond” and takes on evil empires with a vengeance. Much of the humor is embarrassingly funny (with an emphasis on embarrassing). Does every situation have to be handled with street vulgarity to make a point? After all, the real Laurel and Hardy often made us laugh hysterically in their early movies, and they were “silent.”

Rounding out the cast is a group of A-Listers including Jude Law as Bradley Fine and Jason Statham as Rick Ford. Fine could easily pass for the handsome Bond, and he is swooned over by McCarthy’s Cooper. Ford is a hard-knocks, no-holds-barred rough guy who can’t believe that the untrained Cooper manages to out-perform everyone else in the department.

While Spy might have a tinge of moral virtue in the fact that the main characters represent good vs. evil choices with “good” winning out, the intertwined incivility of the main character doesn’t really bring a lot of empathy or sympathy. It may be true that we don’t live in a Father Knows Best or Donna Reed Show world anymore, but do we really have to then go to the other extreme and pretend that this crudeness is the new “normal”?

Spy will undoubtedly spin off a new series of comedy sequels, and it does have enough pratfalls in it to give you some hardy laughs, but its portrayal of life today is anything but funny.


» Do you think the use of vulgar humor is a sign of a cultural digression? Why do you answer as you do?

» The world of espionage is often glamorized in film. Do you think films such as this help to remove this idealism or reinforce it?

» The formulae of having McCarthy paired with a beautiful and handsome person seems to imply that heavier people are a joke. Do you think that is true or not?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.