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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/29/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/2/2015
In my recent review forPitch Perfect 2, we discussed the changing face of "chick flicks" and how the scope of the genre is expanding. The good news here is that women are getting lead roles in more and more movies (although a definite gender-gap still exists). Inspired by this change, some filmmakers are taking the opportunity to place women in roles which may have been a longshot in the past. Action-comedies are a sub-genres in which females typically don't dominate, but Melissa McCarthy and Director Paul Feig are attempting to change that. First, they brought us 2013's The Heat, which riffed on buddy-cop movies, and now they have delivered the James Bond spoof Spy.
McCarthy stars in Spy as Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst who spends her days working in a basement office (which is infested with vermin) where she acts as the eyes, ears, and brain for secret agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). As Fine travels the world stopping bad guys, Susan keeps him informed and monitors his actions. While pursuing a stolen nuclear weapon, tragedy strikes and Susan volunteers to enter the filed and recover the bomb. While fellow agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) is against this idea, CIA Director Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) decides to give Susan a chance. Armed with a dowdy new identity and some odd secret agent gadgets, Susan heads for Europe where analyst Nancy (Miranda Hart) will guide her through her paces as she pursues the Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne).
If you went back in time and asked fans of the Gilmore Girls if they thought that Melissa McCarthy, who played the lovable Sookie, would go on to be a movie star, the most popular response would have most likely been something along the lines of, "I sure hope so." or "Gosh, that would be nice for her." In other words, I doubt that you would get a definitive yes. Yet, here we are eight years after that show ended, and McCarty is getting her name above the title. Following Gilmore Girls, she did a few more shows and some movies, but it was her role in 2011'sBridesmaids which made the world take notice. From there, she has starred in several films.
If you look at those movies, you'll see that McCarthy has made a career of playing loud, obnoxious people, rarely portraying the softer edge which made her so popular on Gilmore Girls, with 2014's Tammy being the epitome of abrasive and stupid. In Spy, we actually get a blend of McCarthy's two most well-known personality. Although she is a trained CIA agent, years of working in the basement have made Susan somewhat shy and insecure -- and her spinster undercover outfits don't help. However, when her cover is threatened, she is forced to take on a much tougher persona -- one who threatens people and uses a lot of vulgar language. So, I guess that this will satisfy a good number of McCarthy's fans.
As for the rest of the movie, Spy is a decidedly mixed bag. Feig, who both wrote and directed here, does not try to re-invent the wheel, instead giving us a very hackneyed story featuring the debonair Bond-like spy, the lavish European locations, and the traditional bad guys. Even Susan's fish-out-of-water character doesn't come across as very original, as we've seen this kind of thing before. Feig attempts to set Spy apart from other movies by making it decidedly adult. The movie features nearly non-stop profanity, most referencing some very heinous things. We also get a surprising amount of graphic violence here. It's supposed to be played for laughs, as Susan is not prepared to witness such things, but it's still shocking for a mainstream comedy. Speaking of which, Feig does stray from center by inserting some odd things, such as the vermin in the CIA office.
Spy must be commended for having a female at the center of a big action-comedy and the movie does supply a few nice laughs. But, the overall lack of originality truly hurts the movie. At times, this simply feels like an excuse for the cast to tour Europe. (This notion isn't helped by a cameo from McCarthy's husband...even though he has a great line.) The movie rarely rises above average and I wish that it has shot for clever, as opposed for shocking. And for all of those critics who found Rose Byrne's "big hair" to be hilarious, you clearly aren't from the south because, trust me, that's not big hair.
Spy did make me like Jason Statham a little more due to his willingness to be a goofball on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at average of 20 Mbps. (Which is a surprising low bitrate.) The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good -- and the movie is filled with deep tones -- and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and the depth is impressive. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences provide notable surround sound and stereo effects, most notably when cars go by -- the audio moves smoothly from front to back and right to left. The subwoofer also kicks in during these scenes.
The Spy Blu-ray Disc contains an insane amount of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Paul Feig, Director of Photography Bob Yeoman, Gaffer John Vecchio, Producer Jessie Henderson, and Fight Coordinator Walter Garcia. The Disc contains three "Redacted Scenes" which run about 3 minutes. Which are followed by fifteen "Classified Alternate Scenes" which run about 32 minutes. The "Top Secret Gag Reel" runs 7 minutes, which is followed by the "Extra Top Secret Behind-the-Scenes Gag Reel", which runs 4 minutes. "Director of Intelligence Feig Makes the Cast Do His Bidding" (9 minutes) shows how Feig would feed the cast lines from off-screen. "Susan and Her Men" (8 minutes) is just a reel of Susan interacting with male characters. We get a reel of Rose Byrne laughing in "Super Villain Rayna Canít Keep it Together" (5 minutes). "Super Vermin" (2 minutes) offers on-set mouse footage. "The Many Deaths of Anton" (1 minute) offers alternate takes of a character's demise. "The Trouble With Covers" (2 minutes) shows how hard it is to remember names. "The Great Rick Ford" (4 minutes) is yet another reel of alternate takes. "For Your Eyes Only: Jokes-A-Plenty" (13 minutes) is yet another reel of deleted scenes. As is "The Handsy World of Spies" (2 minutes). "Speaking is an Art Form" (2 minutes) brings us flubbed lines. "Super Villains of the Animal World" (2 minutes) shows how bugs and mice got involved in the movie. "How Spy Was Made" is an 8-part featurette.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long