Putting the dead in deadpan

Comedies based on funny people in peril never go out of style, even when they're about throwing stilettos rather than custard pies. "Spy," an engaging secret-agent farce, puts the dead in deadpan. Melissa McCarthy plays CIA office drone Susan Cooper. She persuades her boss to excuse her from her mouse-infested subbasement so she can save the day. Cooper's innate abilities rise to the top as she's drawn into bombastic conflict, from a wolfish Italian seducer to gory battles. McCarthy makes wondrous physical comedy of big action-movie moments. The film presents her character as one to laugh with, rarely at, usually about how she's acting, almost never how she's looking.

Colin Covert