Like one of the co-hosts of my favorite movie podcast, I am occasionally guilty of watching a movie on a plane. It’s never ideal, and I actively try to stay away from films I don’t want to watch on a scratched, blurry screen (I saw a guy watching Mad Max Fury Road on a recent flight and wanted to slap him) or films that are long and/or require a lot of thought. Based on that criteria, Spy was a perfect choice.
I’ve been a fan of writer/director Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy since Bridesmaids. As great as McCarthy was in that, I doubt that character could have carried the movie, so it’s nice to see her subdued but still funny. Less subdued are McCarthy’s co-stars, to varying degrees of success. Jason Statham’s shtick is funny but one-note, and Peter Serafinowicz’s deranged Italian spy is funny in small doses (which thankfully is how he appears). But the real scene stealer is Rose Byrne. Hopefully she’ll be elevated from supporting to leading actress in a comedy, because her timing and delivery are impeccable.
Spy’s comedy is largely verbal, but there are some decent sight gags involving McCarthy’s increasingly demeaning disguises and Bond-inpsired gadgets. Interestingly, in the film’s production notes, stunt coordinator JJ Perry claims that he and Fieg wanted McCarthy’s fights to resemble Jackie Chan’s in terms of choreography, as well as shot composition and editing. I can’t say I noticed this at the time, although that was more due to the audio/visual limitations of British Airways than to any failure on their part. (Perry is an extremely experienced stunt coordinator, so I’ll take him at his word.) And their instinct to emulate Jackie Chan is spot on, as he’s probably the best action comedy actor around – as explained in another excellent video essay from Tony Zhou’s Every Frame a Painting.
In other words, as long as you don’t mind missing some decent stunt work, feel free to enjoy Spy on the sub-optimal screen of your choice.