REVIEW: Spy

6 06 2015

Prior to “Spy,” Melissa McCarthy was one lumbering burlesque of a physical performance away from entering Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell territory.  This land, beyond typecasting, is a dump of sneering self-parody churned out at breakneck speed.  After breakout success in “Bridesmaids,” roles in “Identity Thief” and “Tammy” reduced her to little more than a one-dimensional punchline (not to mention a bit of a punching bag as well).

Thankfully, maestro Paul Feig arrives with Susan Cooper, a part that provides a well-timed reminder of McCarthy’s remarkable comic agility and versatility.  As an unlikely secret agent tracking down a rogue nuclear weapon on the black market, Susan often has to shift gears into new – and often unflattering – identities on the fly.  While playing a character who goes from shy and sheepish to brash and outspoken within a matter of minutes, McCarthy never appears anything less than completely confident.

Unfortunately, Feig’s script for “Spy” reserves all the surprises and range for its star.  In his past collaborations with Melissa McCarthy, Feig worked with screenplays from other comediennes: Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo (“Bridesmaids”) as well as Katie Dippold (“The Heat“).  When tasked with creating the humor he has to orchestrate, Feig falls into rather predictable patterns that often feel one-note.

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REVIEW: The Expendables

16 12 2010

If you aren’t willing to forget all cinematic standards, “The Expendables” will be a dismally stupid exercise in corny filmmaking that is only good for mockery.  But if you are willing to watch an hour and 30 minutes of Sylvester Stallone and a bunch of other fading action stars trying to be cool, then you will have one rip-roaringly fun ride.

The stars you recognize are clearly far from their glory days in the 1980s, and Stallone has given them the opportunity to relive them while they wait for their AARP cards.  With a little help from Jason Statham and Jet Li, action stars of a younger generation, they manage to walk through every ridiculous motion that the trigger-happy movies of decades past so seriously that it becomes riotously funny.  (Except I feel like Stallone doesn’t know that he’s not actually cool, so someone needs to man up and tell him.)

“The Expendables” is actually one of the best worst movies I’ve ever seen, so enormously entertaining in all its shortcomings.  There’s everything to love about an action movie in excess, especially blood and gore.  The violence gets so absurd and comical that there’s no appropriate response but laughter to how unrealistic it gets.  But the humor doesn’t stop at the slaughtering of villainous drug traffickers; the script is equally as silly, providing Stallone and company with plenty of horrifying one-liners to utter and hackneyed plotlines to follow.

Hollywood gives us plenty of movies to enjoy if we simply lower our standards.  “The Expendables” is easy to enjoy if we simply have no standards.  C+