On paper, it’s not terribly surprising that Spy won the box office this weekend, even if it did have to go up against a terrifying horror movie, and Insidious 3. Nestled comfortably between the high notes of Pitch Perfect 2 and the high everything of Ted 2, Spy offered a welcome respite for viewers already exhausted by the mass blockbuster destruction of the summer movie season. Seeing as we’re due for at least four other action-espionage flicks before the year is over (Kingsman having already set the table in February with its punk Bond riff), Spy couldn’t have picked a genre more in need of a preemptive good ribbing.
But this latest win for director Paul Feig and star Melissa McCarthy doesn’t owe entirely to precision timing: Spy, most importantly, is just a really funny, well-made, and original comedy. By carefully walking the line between earnest imitation and loving send-up of other spy movies, Spy won over audiences, and will likely enjoy a healthy run at the box office.
Studios looking to replicate Spy’s success in the future should pay attention to the following things that it gets dead right, and that make Spy more than just the latest spin on a successful formula.