The Spy Who Dumped Me is an enjoyable female buddy romp that delivers sharp action and solid laughs - despite its shortcomings as a spy movie parody.
While The Spy Who Dumped Me is certainly the comedy its 007-parodying title implies, it's surprisingly committed to being equal parts thrilling and comical, rather than one more than the other. At the same time, the movie succeeds less at satirizing the macho tropes of James Bond and similar espionage franchises (like Paul Feig's Spy does), and more at using those cliches to tell a meaningful story about female friendship, in the vein of writer and director Susanna Fogel's debut film, Life Partners. The final result makes for uneven, yet otherwise entertaining summer escapism. The Spy Who Dumped Me is an enjoyable female buddy romp that delivers sharp action and solid laughs - despite its shortcomings as a spy movie parody.
Mila Kunis stars in The Spy Who Dumped Me as Audrey, a regular 30-year old woman from Los Angeles who is struggling to get over Drew (Justin Theroux): Audrey's now ex-boyfriend who broke up with her almost a year after they first met (on her birthday), with no real explanation. Supported by her eccentric bestie Morgan (Kate McKinnon), Audrey does her best to move on, even after Drew finally reaches out to her, sounding panicked. However, everything changes when Audrey then learns why Drew dumped her to begin with - namely, he's an undercover CIA agent being hunted by some very bad people who are now trying to kill Audrey and Morgan, in their efforts to get to him.
Before they know it, Audrey and Morgan are on a globe-hopping adventure that takes them across Europe, all the while being pursued by arms dealers, assassins, and other criminals trying to get ahold of a mysterious item - handed to them by a desperate Drew for safe-keeping - in their possession. Also hot on their tails are an international team of agents led by one Sebastian Henshaw (Sam Heughan), an enigmatic MI6 employee who claims he just wants to protect Audrey and Morgan from the real bad guys. It thus falls to these two BFFs to figure out who they can trust and make it out of their surprise European "vacation" in one piece.
In some ways, The Spy Who Dumped Me is a better showcase for Fogel as an action filmmaker than a comedy director. The movie hits the ground running with an opening that's shot in stylishly desaturated tones and features close-quarter fight choreography and stunts that are more bone-crunching than those in PG-13 movie series like Bourne and Bond. Things settle down a bit once the comedy scenes get started, yet Fogel and her cinematographer Barry Peterson stage the later shoot-outs, chase sequences and fisticuffs with much of the same finesse that Peterson brought to Game Night earlier this year. Like Spy, The Spy Who Dumped Me's R rating frees it up to not only deliver more brutal violence, but also serve up darkly funny bits and gags that other studio comedies and/or action films can't get away with.
However, for the large part, The Spy Who Dumped Me is driven by comedic scenarios and situations that are funny enough in the moment (like a running joke where Europeans always expect Americans to be vapid and destructive), but don't quite manage to create a clear thematic through line or develop the film's characters. Similarly, the actual cloak-and-dagger storyline written by Fogel and David Iserson (United States of Tara) is pretty by the numbers and its twists and reveals are easy to see coming, ahead of time. Nevertheless, Audrey and Morgan's friendship is the glue that keeps the whole thing together and gives the film some real heart. For that reason, the comedic beats that are dedicated to fleshing out their relationship also tend to be the funniest.
As was the case with her scene-stealing turns in recent comedies like Ghostbusters and Rough Night (and, of course, her work on SNL), McKinnon is excellent as the off-the-walls zany half of the equation here. The Spy Who Dumped Me makes smart use of McKinnon's range as a performer and gives her the chance to do everything from (sometimes, bloody) physical comedy to raunchy one-off gags, often while dressed in a pair of suspenders that give her the perfect cartoonish demeanor. Kunis is the straight woman opposite McKinnon (no pun intended), but her own experience in the area of comedy serves her well, allowing Kunis and McKinnon to bounce jokes off each other with ease. This makes it all the more believable that their characters (one of them far less outgoing and colorful than the other) have formed such a close bond, after all their years as pals.
Admittedly, The Spy Who Dumped Me doesn't do equal justice by its other cast members and tends to either reduce their characters to running jokes (see Hasan Minhaj as Duffer, a CIA agent who's obsessed with the fact that he graduated from Harvard) or struggle to disguise their real motivations, before attempting to pull the rug out from under audiences' feet. All the same, the supporting cast does respectable work, with Heughan in particular successfully riffing on his image as the handsome hero from Outlander (even though his romantic subplot with Kunis falls a bit flat). However, the standout is easily Ivanna Sakhno (Pacific Rim Uprising) as Nadedja, an acrobatic killer whose wide-eyed intensity is funny and scary in equal measure. Meanwhile, Agent Scully herself, Gillian Anderson makes a few brief, but enjoyable, appearances here as Sebastian's boss Wendy - even if the way Morgan fangirls around her only really makes sense if you're familiar with McKinnon and Anderson's real world relationship.
All things considered, The Spy Who Dumped Me offers the sort of breezy entertainment that many filmgoers are looking for from their August studio offerings. Bolstered by solid chemistry between Kunis and McKinnon, the film delivers a healthy blend of laughs, thrills, and heart without necessarily breaking new ground in its larger efforts to poke fun at the spy genre. On the other hand, buddy action/comedies anchored by women (on both sides of the camera, no less) are rare and The Spy Who Dumped Me is all the more noteworthy for bucking that trend, to positive effect. Likewise, it further demonstrates Fogle's skills as a filmmaker and will hopefully lead to the storyteller getting to put her spin on other tried-and-true Hollywood genre movies, in the future.
The Spy Who Dumped Me is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 117 minutes long and is rated R for violence, language throughout, some crude sexual material and graphic nudity.
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- The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018) release date: Aug 03, 2018