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Five Funny Spy Movies
by Betty Jo Tucker

I love watching spy films, especially the funny ones. Below are my five favorites and why each one made the list -- but in no particular order.

SPY (2015). Melissa McCarthy stars in this James Bond spoof for the ages. Talk about exceeding expectations! The preview promised laughs and action, but the film delivers so much more. Perfect performances, great production values, female power, and humorous surprises fill the screen.  McCarthy wins us over completely as Susan Cooper, an unassuming CIA analyst who provides tech support to sophisticated, handsome Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) when he’s on perilous missions. We see how much she cares for Fine, and how she tries to hide her feelings from him. Our concern for Susan soon moves into overdrive as she volunteers to go undercover on a dangerous assignment of her own, despite her lack of confidence about “field duty”-- even though she excelled in training. Impeccable production values make Spy look like a bona fide James Bond movie. The film boasts thrilling action shots, beautiful locations, intriguing gadgets, and so forth.  But this is a comedy, so -- most important of all -- very funny things happen in practically every scene.  

JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN (2011). Everyone deserves a second chance, even a disgraced British agent like Johnny English. After being responsible for a major goof-up, English spends time in Asia becoming “toughened up” and more disciplined in Johnny English Reborn. When he gets called back to service, no one is more surprised than English himself. With Rowan Atkinson in the title role here, it’s no wonder this spy spoof ends up being so funny. Although some humor falls flat, Atkinson evokes plenty of laughs as English tries to apply newfound wisdom while accomplishing his perilous new assignment.  Most of the fun in Johnny English Reborn comes from watching Atkinson as an ultra-serious agent of Her Majesty’s Secret Service who misses as many clues as he uncovers during this dangerous opportunity for redemption. Highlights include his unusual chase of a much younger bad guy and the hysterical running gag about a killer cleaner (Pik Sen Lim).

THE SPY NEXT DOOR (2010). How well do you know your neighbors? In The Spy Next Door, Jackie Chan’s character “Bob Ho” is someone his neighbors would never suspect, a spy on loan to the CIA from Chinese Intelligence. Bob wants to retire -- and marry the lovely lady next door, who just happens to have three precocious children with very negative attitudes about him. He naively jumps at the chance to take care of this unruly trio, hoping to win the kids over. Unfortunately, Bob gets called back for an emergency mission while he’s supposed to be babysitting. Comical chaos ensues, of course. This is a Jackie Chan movie through and through, so -- as usual -- he uses everything but the kitchen sink as weapons in his Kung Fu comedy battles with the bad guys. I never knew how deadly such innocent objects as a bicycle, chairs, lamps, pots, pans, skillets and dishes could be!

SPY KIDS (2001). It’s hard to resist Spy Kids, a live-action comedy starring Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino as retired secret agents whose pre-teen son and daughter must save them --- and the world. Although gadgets galore almost overwhelm the film’s characters and plot, this whimsical spoof of spy thrillers offers plenty of fun for the whole family. Banderas and Gugino can do no wrong. Funny and sexy, they bring the parents to life in every scene together. In addition, while wearing sophisticated disguises before settling down to raise a family, this stunning couple makes the ultimate fashion statement for spydom. Happily, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, whose claim to fame lies in creation of such violent movies as Desperado and From Dusk to Dawn, let his inner child run wild in writing and directing this highly entertaining espionage fantasy.

AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME (1999).  In another spoof of James Bond movies, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, the diabolical Dr. Evil steals Austin’s mojo. (Both characters are played by Mike Myers, of course). To get back his all-important essence, Austin travels backwards in time to London in the '60s where he meets Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham), a sexy CIA agent who helps him save the world from destruction. Is Austin Powers sexist? Yes. Is he crude? Yes. But is he funny? Yeah, bay-bee! Myers (who also co-wrote the screenplay) has this character down pat. Why is Austin Powers so appealing? Director Jay Roach offers one explanation. "He is a guy who has managed to maintain tremendous incompetence in the face of having attained legendary super spy status. No matter how much he bungles the mission up, he’s still the best man for the job. Who else is there like that? Who else has his style?" Who else, indeed.

Happily, all five of my favorite funny spy movies are available on DVD. Enjoy!

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