Audrey (Mila Kunis) is celebrating her 30th birthday with her best friend, Morgan (Kate McKinnon), but texts from her boyfriend, Drew (Justin Theroux), do not bode well. Then, he shows up at her door (window, actually) with some very bad people hot on his trail in “The Spy Who Dumped Me.”
Hollywood is always on the lookout for the next “thing,” whether it be to up the ante on action adventures and spy flicks or, with “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” the fish-out-of-water spoof of spy movies. Spy spoofs have been around for many decades – think the original “Casino Royale (1967).” Here, the “thing” is the untapped talent of Kate McKinnon who, the filmmakers hope, will be a big money-maker with her boundless talent.
Sophomore feature writer-director Susanna Fogel (with co-scribe David Iserson) barely taps McKinnon’s talent in what is a mildly amusing spy spoof about the fish-out-of-water Audrey and Morgan joining forces to thwart an international espionage plot. The problem is that it has all been done before, many times – Jackie Chan’s “The Accidental Spy (2001)” and “Gotcha! (1985)” came to mind without much thought.)
Plan to suspend disbelief frequently while watching “The Spy Who Dumped Me” as Audrey and Morgan’s misadventures bring them from their boring life in LA – Audrey is a cashier in a grocery store and Morgan is…I am not sure – to Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris.
The mission, following Drew’s tragic demise, is to deliver a trophy containing a great secret to the Café Sheila in Vienna on a certain day at 11:00AM to a contact named Verne. Audrey and Morgan drop everything to go on the adventure that both have always wanted and never had. Of course, the rookie spies will get in way over their heads when the bad guys try to take the trophy, no matter the cost. This makes for shootouts, many of them, throughout the bulk of the film. That, and car chases through the exotic capitals of Europe eluding bad guys. The chases and gunfights are first-rate.
Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon have decent chemistry and their tough girly banter, as the violence amps up, delivers some laughs. To me, though, the funniest running gag in the movie is Morgan’s incessant calls to her parents, Armie and Connie (Paul Reiser and Jane Curtin) in the midst of an international crisis – priceless.
It is telling that I figured out just what will happen in this predictable story minutes into the movie – most of the “surprises” are not a surprise – so the real draws are the action and McKinnon. I hoped for something more than mildly amusing. I give it a C+.
The spy spoof genre has thrived ever since James Bond first introduced himself, most recently represented when Melissa McCarthy's office support worker went into the field in "Spy." Now cowriter (with David Iserson)/director Susanna Fogel doubles the female leads with thirtysomething best friends Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (SNL's Kate McKinnon), but the fun is fleeting in "The Spy Who Dumped Me."
I've been reading Dave Itzkoff's recent biography of Robin Williams, a lot of which is given over to the difficulty of finding the right fit for the brilliant comedian in movies. I'm beginning to think something similar is going on with Kate McKinnon. I haven't seen all of her movies, but it's not a good sign that her only memorable appearances were in the misguided "Ghostbusters" remake and voicing a goat in the animated "Ferdinand." She gets this film's funniest joke, but I wonder how many of this film's target audience will pick up on a Dostoevsky reference in regards to The Cheesecake Factory's menu.
After getting questioned at her supermarket job about her former boyfriend by Sebastian ('Outlander's' Sam Heughan), Drew (Justin Theroux) shows up at Audrey's apartment only to be dispatched by a squad of assassins. In his dying moments, he hands her a small trophy with instructions to get it to Verne at the Cafe Sheila in Vienna at 11 o'clock the next morning to prevent an unspeakable tragedy. He also tells her to trust no one. Audrey and Morgan make it out of the apartment unscathed and drive off. Luckily their passports are in the glove compartment and Morgan convinces Audrey that they should respect Drew's dying wish.
It is not until they are sitting eating strudel that they realize they have no way to identify Verne, but soon enough Audrey sees Sebastian who demands the trophy at gunpoint. Luckily (again) the girls have filled a carry on with gift shop trophies and she slips him a decoy. A mass slaughter ensues, but the pair escape again. Rinse and repeat through Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam as news reports identify them as part of a murderous conspiracy.
Action scenes, like a Vienna car chase sequence that has Audrey take over for Bitteauto Driver Lukas (Kev Adams) when he's shot, are excitingly choreographed and feature some impressive stunts. Unfortunately, this is supposed to be a comedy and the laughs are few and far between, most derived from Morgan's frequent calls to her mom and dad (SNL alum Jane Curtin and 'Mad About You's' Paul Reiser) in New Jersey. Kunis ably handles the straight woman/romantic interest part, as she's done before in movies like "Bad Moms," but McKinnon is left adrift with lame material. Gillian Anderson costars as Sebastian and his partner Duffer's ('The Daily Show's' Hasan Minhaj) boss and the uncomfortable recipient of Morgan's adulation. The disturbingly emaciated Ivanna Sakhno ("Pacific Rim: Uprising") is a laser-focused, highly athletic assassin, Nadedja.
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