Look out, Bond. Look out, Bourne. Melissa McCarthy has found her franchise.
In Spy, a lunatic cloak-and-dagger farce directed by Bridesmaids' Paul Feig, the unabashed comedienne with the plus-size figure - and plus-size attitude to go with it - gets the perfect fit of a starring role. As Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst working with high-tech surveillance systems and low-self-esteem issues, McCarthy plays whip-smart and wacky, plucky and potty-mouthed, a woman with some impressive skill sets - and all the wants and needs of someone whose job is way more rewarding than her personal life.
From the opening 007-ish theme song (Ivy Levan booming out "Who Can You Trust"), to Jude Law as the dashing secret agent Bradley Fine, to the hopscotching-across-Europe plotline, Spy playfully honors its genre's roots and sends them up with absurdist glee.
For no apparent reason (other than laughs), the Langley control center where "Coop" and her colleagues run drone strikes and whisper coordinates into their field ops' earpieces is inundated with vermin. Bats fly out of the ceiling, mice crawl across the computer consoles. McCarthy's costar, the deadpan Brit Miranda Hart, sits at her desk shepherding operatives via satellite, with a little rodent comfortably ensconced on her shoulder.
With a suitcase-size nuclear weapon serving as the movie's MacGuffin and Rose Byrne serving as a hysterically snotty and sinister villain, Spy finds McCarthy's Susan unexpectedly plucked from her desk and dispatched to Paris. She's the only agent who hasn't been ID'd by Byrne's Rayna Boyanov, a Bulgarian vixen with piles of hair and a private jet. Macho CIA guy Rick Ford (a very funny Jason Statham - who knew?) doesn't like the idea of this inexperienced female doing the sort of job he should be doing, so he goes rogue - dogging Susan (in her various unflattering alias roles) around Paris, Rome, Budapest.
Feig, who wrote the Spy screenplay, encouraging his actors to improvise along the way, has his own stealth mission. For all the over-the-top comedy, zigzagging chases, and choreographed fight scenes (an epic restaurant faceoff pits McCarthy, armed with frying pans and kitchen implements, against a beauteous, kickboxing Nargis Fakhri), Spy is very much a tale of female empowerment. The lead is a woman. Her boss is a woman (the no-nonsense - except when nonsense is called for - Allison Janney). The antagonist is a woman. The best friend is a woman. And they all get their jobs done, while the men (Law, Statham, Peter Serafinowicz as Italian agency contact Aldo) 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. Instead, McCarthy, Feig, and company joke about porn-star names and sex organs and the traditions and tropes of espionage action pics.
At the end - and it's not giving anything away - Janney's Elaine Crocker is ready to send her intrepid intel officer off on a new mission. If a Spy sequel isn't already in the works, they better get cracking. Nefarious terrorists and numskull guys await.