There is much that is very right with THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME. There is also much that is very wrong with it. It makes for an irksome cinematic experience in which one finds oneself rooting for the flick to pull itself together before the final credits. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t happen.
The kitschy-coo title informs us that nothing we are about to see should be taken too seriously, and that rather than overthink anything to come, we should sit back and let the silliness engulf us. Having Kate McKinnon as half of a neophyte spy team means that silliness of an inspired nature will ensue, silliness with a touch of divine madness a only McKinnon can deliver. Alas, she and co-star Mila Kunis find themselves hopelessly ensnared in a script that refuses to find a consistent tone in order to make best use of what is otherwise an intriguing premise.
That would be what happens when Audrey (Kunis), a thirty-something going nowhere fast, gets dumped by her boyfriend, Drew (Justin Theroux), via a text message. What Audrey doesn’t know, but will shortly, is that Drew is a spy currently engaged in the sort of derring-do that spies in movies regularly undertake. As Audrey and life-long best friend, aspiring actress Morgan (McKinnon), commiserate about the meaning of life over drinks at their local bar, Drew is parkouring around Eastern Europe dodging bullets and dispatching the bad guys with a firm twist of their necks. Until, that is, Audrey texts him that she is going to burn the stuff he left at her apartment. For that he takes time out from the ci-mentioned activities to call and ask her not to. Too late, much has been reduced to ashes, and before Drew can make it back to the States to retrieve the rest, Audrey has been stuffed into a van by some other spies, MI6’s Sebastian (Sam Heughan), and the CIA’s Duffer (Hasan Minhaj), a twerp who can’t go more than 30 seconds without mentioning the Ivy League school that he attended.
Before you can say 007, Audrey and Morgan are in Vienna in order to keep an appointment with the only contact they can trust. And if it all went according to plan, there’d be no movie, thus the first of several bloodbaths erupting in some of the more picturesque European capitals, all of which brings us to one of the things that THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME gets so right. Audrey and Morgan, slackers extraordinaire have a flair for the spy game. Sure shots and precision drivers, they are the polar opposites of damsels in distress as they cut a wide swath of destruction and surprise across Europe and their adversaries. They’re also smart and decisive. One so enjoys that.
The other thing right is the chemistry between Kunis and McKinnon as their characters translate the cliché tenets of female empowerment into running for their lives and focusing on the positives of robbing strangers for the right reasons, and spilling each other’s deepest secrets to the crazed gymnast using her craft to torture information out of them. Between Kunis’ absolute deadpan sincerity and McKinnon’s low-key lunacy, the absurdity is irresistible, as is their whack-a-doodle moral compass.
The story, however, meanders in stops and starts that not even McKinnon’s antics, accessorized with a crazed look in her eyes and a demonic smile on her lips, can save. Sure, it hits all the right satirical tropes from car chases (slow and fast) to the climactic gala ball giving everyone a chance to doll themselves up. And, further sure, with a film like this, it truly doesn’t matter if it all makes sense, though it would be nice if it did, but the endless detours that add nothing to the fun drain the energy that should be flowing freely. Is there such a thing as a light-hearted slog? There is now.