Review: “The Spy Who Dumped Me” Is a Buddy Comedy With a Body Count
In its opening minutes, “The Spy Who Dumped Me” hops from a shootout in Vilnius, Lithuania, to a birthday celebration in Los Angeles.
Audrey (Mila Kunis) is turning 30 in the wake of an abrupt breakup — via text — with one of the gunmen. A skinny dude named Drew (Justin Theroux) whose profession was a secret to Audrey. The title of this pleasantly silly, sometimes jarringly violent comedy, directed by Susanna Fogel (who wrote the script with David Iserson). It isn’t terribly ambiguous, and I have now explained it fully.
But Drew, who shows up back in California to trade a few more bullets and explain himself to Audrey, is as close to beside the point as a heavily armed, lethally trained international operative can be. Espionage is not what this movie is about, and romance isn’t either. Yes, there are chases through various European capitals and another cute secret agent for Audrey to flirt with once Drew is sidelined. But the engine that drives the plot and sparks the jokes is her friendship with Morgan (Kate McKinnon).
“The Spy Who Dumped Me” departs from buddy-movie conventions in an important way.
Audrey and Morgan aren’t the usual oil-and-water pair of natural antagonists thrown together by circumstance so they can squabble their way to mutual appreciation. Instead, their bond is a constant, an absolute, the one thing in a world of lies and murderous double-crosses that is not subject to doubt. “Don’t trust anyone,” Drew warns Audrey, which is reasonable enough advice. But it’s also implicit that the exception to the rule is Morgan, even though — or just because — Morgan is a complete goofball.
Ms. McKinnon is too inventive to make the character a standard, zany rom-com sidekick. There is no real precedent for her highly disciplined comic anarchy. But Ms. McKinnon reminds me a little of Peter Sellers in her command of voice, face and body and her ability to turn every scene into a popcorn popper of verbal and physical surprise.
Morgan, an aspiring actress, says whatever is on her mind and seems immune to embarrassment.
She either doesn’t realize how ridiculous she is or doesn’t care. But unlike Sellers’s similarly clueless characters, who were hermetically sealed in their own delusional realities, Morgan is eager for connection. She shares everything with her parents (Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser) and fangirls over the steely head of British intelligence (Gillian Anderson). She is thrilled to acquire a nemesis, a gymnast-turned-assassin named Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno).
At times, Ms. Kunis seems stranded in Zeppo territory while Ms. McKinnon channels the other three Marx Brothers at the same time. But the two of them find a relaxed, nimble rhythm that keeps the movie going through so-so action sequences and less-than-fresh plot twists. Sam Heughan, as a spy who didn’t dump anyone, does the hunky Hemsworth-brother-type thing with reasonable aplomb, and Hasan Minhaj steals a scene or two as his status-conscious partner.
Susanna Fogel wanted to reverse the roles.
For once, two women would be at the heart of an espionage adventure with scenes staged in several European capitals, with exchanges of gunfire and dangerous car chases.
The director did not want to make them “superwomen” pitiless, icy, able to seduce a barreled male in 10 minutes. And then break his neck in one movement. In short, no clichés. Her heroines are a little dizzy, a little outdated, but resourceful.
Fogel wanted to do things differently, to explore new horizons, a quality for an artist. Filmed in splendid settings (Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Prague), full of action scenes that have nothing to envy to other films of the same genre. The Spy Who Dumped Me obviously sends a wink to a chapter of the famous franchise 007. As the title refers to men who abandon their girlfriend brutally. It serves as a catalyst to the story without coming back, or so little, thereafter.
Here everything is big, highlighted, exaggerated.
Laughs, or no-laughs, are fat. The side “pee, poo, prout” is assumed. And when you say assumed, get ready! Should we, in fact, serve a comedy with sorry old jokes like testicles shot in close-up or the head of a villain plunged into a cheese fondue and replicas that fall flat?
In this context, is it surprising that many secondary characters are desperately nonos, including a Canadian ambassador and his wife.
Never, for a second, have the two main characters, and their quest, been endearing to us. This is proof that this mixture of genres has not had the desired effect for us. If the goal was to parody old parodies, thank you, but it was not necessary. And no matter who would have been the two heroes, this film would not have convinced us more.
Actors: Mila Kunia, Kate McKinnon
Directors: Susanna Fogel
Stars: Justin Theroux, Blanka Györfi-Tóth, Vilma Szécsi
Writers: Susanna Fogel, David Iserson
Studio: eOne Films
Run Time: 116 minutes
This film doesn’t quite come together like it should, it has all of the spy hijinks , and the action, and its a little over the top with the action in some scenes.
The Bourne Identity becomes somewhat essential late summer viewing for one reason and one reason alone: Kate McKinnon.
It gets so much right. A sequel, with Morgan in the driving seat, would be awesome.
The problem is that the script, by Fogel and David Iserson…offers zilch in the way of laughs.