Rarely do I find full-on slapstick hilarious. And broad comedies are not that amusing to me (*The Hangover* and *Superbad* come to mind as movies which I recognized as being entertaining to others while not actually laughing very much myself). But with the right cast and story, well, I'll guffaw at someone getting slammed around an airplane with the best of them.
Melissa McCarthy owns this, and the fact that she's given the space by writer and director Paul Feig to create a character (Susan Cooper) with real pathos as well as mad skillz is magical.
They imply, with the ridiculous cat-lady ensembles, that they are going to mock her weight and her gender, but she turns both into strengths. And really, Cat Lady is probably a better disguise than anything they give the dashing spies - like Smiley in John LeCarre's series (which includes Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), the most average and unassuming become the most effective at infiltrating. (The cat-lady conceits are abandoned by Cooper halfway through, but it is one of the many ways the movie successfully plays with tropes of spies and spy movies.) For more on that topic, though, go read this Grantland story on spy spoofs. #RIPGrantland
The foils for Cooper are all on point and well-cast:
- her boss, who is feminist in the best way (the always-brilliant Allison Janney)
- her partner/crush Bradley Fine, who gives her a cupcake necklace which is both insulting and touching (Jude Law, with his handsomely punchable face)
- her nemesis/mark, the coolly ruthless Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne with epic hair and Eastern European skeez - highly underrated as a comedienne)
- her coworker/antagonist Rick Ford, the ego-driven bully who expects her to fail (Jason Statham, mocking himself in all the best ways)
- her best friend Nancy, who is both encouraging and awesomely distracted by 50 Cent (endearing goofball Miranda Hart)
- And that doesn't really touch on the other spies played by Morena Baccarin and Nargis Fakhri (dude, the knife fight!), as well as the Italian agent Aldo, who oozes just the right amount of smarmy charm.
Ultimately, this is a movie about expectations, limitations, and the ways in which they don't really mean anything. (See also: cameo by 50 Cent.) It's a wonderful send-up of the way the world picks on the fat girl, underestimates women generally, and expects Statham to hold his own in a fight. It's silly and funny and really about not letting someone else's frame box you in to one way of looking at things.
Now, let's all go watch the Ghostbusters trailer again, and think of all the ways in which they are just trolling us and how totally #baller this movie will be, because Melissa McCarthy + Paul Feig = YES.