I was going to start this review by telling you how much I enjoy Kate McKinnon. But, strangely enough, I realized that beyond 2016’s “Ghostbusters” reboot and McKinnon’s brilliant performances as Hillary Clinton and Kellyanne Conway on “Saturday Night Live,” I haven’t really seen her in a lot of things. But, maybe that says a lot. McKinnon is dynamic in front of a camera and captures viewers’ attention in whatever she does.
It was actually McKinnon who made “The Spy Who Dumped Me” look interesting. I’m not really a fan of comedies or Mila Kunis, but the trailer felt a bit reminiscent of Paul Fieg’s 2015 comedy, “Spy,” which starred Melissa McCarthy. The latter was a film I expected to hate because I generally found McCarthy to be obnoxiously annoying in a lot of her roles. Plus, ya know, it was a comedy. Instead, I was delightfully surprised.
I wish I could say nice things like that about “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” but instead the film was a bit of a dumpster fire, and McKinnon’s presence only doused the 117-minute hot mess in lighter fluid.
Kunis and McKinnon star as best friends and roommates, Audrey and Morgan, respectively. Audrey is a cashier in a Trader Joe knockoff, while Morgan is an unemployed actress.
When the movie starts, Audrey’s boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) has dumped her via text message, and she’s wallowing a bit at her birthday party. Intercut with this sequence in which Kunis and McKinnon avoid questions about her boyfriend and duck men who are attempting to pick them up at the party is an action sequence halfway across the world. Justin, the titular spy, is being followed by some goons, and he’s got to fend them off in a series of efficient, yet protracted, fights.
Eventually, Drew finds his way back to Audrey’s apartment where more hijinks and intrigue (or I guess that’s what the creative team was going for) ensue. Plot machinations start, then the supporting cast arrives.
One of those is Sam Heughan, who plays Sebastian. He’s an MI6 agent who seems to be both friend and foe to Audrey. I stared at him for most of the film trying to figure out why he looked familiar. It wasn’t until the credits rolled that I realized he’s the lead in the STARZ series “Outlander.” I can only hope he’s a better actor as Jamie, the Scottish heartthrob that sets women’s pulses racing as they eagerly await each episode. Don’t get me wrong. Heughan is pretty, and his accent is lovely, but Sebastian is about as interesting as a post.
Of course, Sebastian isn’t in the film to be a pivotal or deep character. He’s there to offer a bit of sex appeal and serve as a romantic option for Audrey. Oh, he’s also there to keep saving her until she finally realizes she can save herself. Heughan’s job is to be as charming and inoffensive as possible. He’s actually part of what’s wrong with the film.
“The Spy Who Dumped Me” doesn’t know what it’s trying to do. Director Susanna Fogel can pretty much put this one in any category she wants. It’s a comedy, but it’s also an action film. It’s a buddy comedy, but it’s also a chick flick. And of course, there’s the “romance.” Instead of just focusing on one thing, Fogel & Co. spread the actors and the plot too thin for anything to be done well.
Kunis and McKinnon don’t have a lot of chemistry, which basically dooms the film from the get-go. McKinnon, who is the focus of a lot of scenes, is on her own plane of existence. Everyone else seems to be in a more standard film than her. Take for example, Kunis, who is meant to play the straight woman. She doesn’t give McKinnon anything to react to, resulting in the jokes intended for her and McKinnon to fall flat more often than succeed. There are a few laughs spread throughout, but the film relies on cheap gags like full-frontal nudity, poop jokes and vaginas as storage spaces.
While Kunis and McKinnon might fail as a comedy duo, McKinnon and Gillian Anderson are a film I would watch. Anderson plays the head of Sebastian’s unit. She’s Judi Dench, the M to his James Bond, as Morgan puts it. Morgan has a huge girl crush and fancies herself a female Bond, if you will. The interactions are genuinely funny.
The film also includes Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser as Morgan’s parents. It’s nice to see the two comedic legends on the big screen again, even if it’s in a craptastic film like this.
The film actually succeeds most as a spy film/action thriller. There’s a surprising amount of violence in the R-rated film. I read somewhere the film has a higher body count than “Mission: Impossible — Fallout.” The bullets fly, the blood pools and dead guys pile up. It’s not just implied violence either, but in-your-face mayhem where bullets are allowed to inflict maximum damage with a lot of squibs, knives are slammed through hands and someone is impaled.
All of this can be summed up with one sentence: “The Spy Who Dumped Me” had a lot of potential. There’s an interesting film, or maybe couple of films under its hood. However, more is rarely more, especially with movies.