What seemed like a silly slapstick comedy from the trailers turned out to be a hilarious and constructive film about confidence and stereotyping.
Spy stars Melissa McCarthy as Susan, a desk-agent with the CIA who is the real power behind the star field agent (and James Bond expy) played by Jude Law. When he is killed in action and the rest of the field agents are compromised, Susan volunteers to go on a mission to recapture a nuclear weapon from terrorists.
While the film is a parody of classic spy films, it is also a good adventure in its own right. Never does the plot waver – Susan is the plucky hero who embarks on a dangerous mission and continues to embed herself deeper into the plot in order to fulfill said mission, defeating the expectations of everyone but herself.
What makes this story especially powerful is the fact that Susan defeats the audience’s expectation of what a heavier, older woman can do. (Susan is not old at 40, except in Hollywood.) Even her CIA aliases are stereotypical: she is given the role of frumpy divorcee with a desk job and then subsequently that of a dumpy cat lady going on a holiday with lottery winnings. Her outfits are outlandish and she sticks out like a sore thumb. Her weapons arsenal is disguised as humiliating items like hemorrhoid wipes and stool softener (as opposed to even just hand-wipes and aspirin). Even looking like a clownish granny, Susan manages to track down the criminals and foil potential attacks. She proves to be a strong and capable fighter with keen intuition and skills of observation.
Hence when she has the chance, she ditches the cat lady disguise and buys herself a gorgeous dress, styles her hair, and gets makeup done. Her security agent disguise works much better and her confidence soars. She becomes even more capable. For the audience, she is an identifiable heroine.
Quite simply, this is a film about believing in oneself and not being quick to judge others, but it is not preachy. It is a funny adventure that at once is charming and revolutionary. Susan starts off as a fish out of water, but she learns to swim. She does not do it to win a man or even to prove herself, but only to fulfill her mission. She does not let others’ ideas and expectations of her rule her. This is a story about breaking free of those constraints, and all members of the audience can identify with that.