Review: 'The Spy Who Dumped Me'

Kate McKinnon can't save this crass, chick-buddy flick aimed at dudes
The Spy Who Dumped Me: Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon buddy up for forgettable spy comedy.

With the honoré de Balzac joke—featuring an actual ball sack dangled on camera—and a poop joke every 10 minutes, the script of The Spy Who Dumped Me has certain tonal problems.

Director and co-scriptwriter Susanna Fogel uses unusually harsh violence, with a crudeness that seems to be reaching out to the male audience who might balk at sitting for a female buddy movie. It's like the diarrhea sequence in The Bridesmaids—material that was insisted upon by the male producers, as something the guys couldn't resist.

Audrey (Mila Kunis) was ditched, via text, by her boyfriend Drew right before her birthday. Her BFF, the would-be actress Morgan (Kate McKinnon) coaxes Audrey into having a bonfire of possessions Drew left behind—everything from his skid-marked underwear to his fantasy football league trophy, second place: The latter is this film's maguffin.

Audrey's hostile texts bring Drew (Justin Theroux) back to L.A. from the field, where he'd been chased by assassins in Eastern Europe. Gunmen catch up with him, and at Drew's dying request, Audrey and Morgan drop everything and take the trophy from LAX to Vienna, with some interference by the MI6 agent Sebastian (the male-modelish Sam Heughan) and his complaining partner (Hasan Minhaj).

Kate McKinnon's astonishing work on SNL doesn't spare her from having to search for a way to play Morgan—it's the same problem she had with her character in Ghostbusters. McKinnon has keen off-kilter lines every now and then, like her story of how she'd failed an audition playing a Ukrainian farm woman in a Geico ad because "I was too authentic." She's quite a weirdette, executing a big Three Musketeers-style bow complete with a whirl of her hand. When she goes for a disguise, she picks a very bad one: a Cockney taxi driver.

There's a piercing section when Drew puts Morgan down for her jokes: "Anybody ever tell you that you're a little much?" That line was written in heart's blood, as the sort of thing dreaded by anyone who has tried to be funny. (Likely, it's the New Yorker writer in Fogel that kept that observation in the film.)

As for Mila Kunis, of the heavy eyelids and heavier scowl, she is a little much. She's gowned up for the final, glamorous part of the assignment and she looks formidable. But Kunis is not an actress who seems patient enough or light enough for comedy. At one point, she wonders about "a fake spy friendship that the Russians put together." That's a direction the film might have taken—the idea that the two roomates Morgan and Audrey don't have that much in common, that it's a friendship that just existed because of habit or old times' sake, and that it needed some danger to revive it. McKinnon brings in the franticness, but it's not the same thing as chemistry. This is the kind of buddy movie that has the characters telling each other how much they love each other, instead of letting us feel it. It's also a pity that the European spy vacation sequences aren't as ravishing as what goes down in Mission: Impossible—Fallout.

The movie makes a declaration of its fierceness by bringing in Ivanna Sakhno as Nadedja, an assassin with hollow eyes, pale eyebrows and pointed chin. McKinnon's Morgan babbles, "You're barely human, you're so pretty" before they get into a fight at Cirque du Soleil-like private party. The Spy Who Dumped Me is filled out with a couple vets from TV's Lady Dynamite, including Fred Melamed, talking like a Jersey gangster, and Olafur Darri Olafsson as a loiterer at a skeevy Amsterdam hostel.

The Spy Who Dumped Me isn't aiming for depth—there's animated kernels of popcorn bouncing around in the title card—but there are one too many room-clearing fight scenes, like the one in Vienna where someone gets their face pushed into a boiling cauldron of soup. Compared to 2015's Spy, which did such a sterling job of satirizing the newer Bonds, this comedy plays sometimes as if there were too many cooks, and other times like there wasn't enough cooking.

The Spy Who Dumped Me
R; 116 Min.

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