A buddy-pic version of the old accidental-secret-agent formula best exemplified recently by the Melissa McCarthy vehicle Spy, Susanna Fogel’s The Spy Who Dumped Me casts Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon as besties whose lives turn adventurous when one is ghosted — make that Ghost Protocol-ed — by a boyfriend she thinks works for NPR. The easy chemistry of the stars only counts for so much in a picture that quickly becomes a hodgepodge of action-comedy gags, nonsensical even when compared to a Roger Moore-era Bond flick, and much less memorable. Sadly, McKinnon’s fans will have to wait even longer for a feature that deserves her lightning-bolt comic charisma; this one leaves her, and the more restrained Kunis, as stranded as a covert operative whose cover is blown.
Fogel, whose Gillian Jacobs/Leighton Meester comedy Life Partners found some admirers on the fest circuit, teams with TV vet David Iserson on a script that sometimes feels like an exquisite corpse — a game in which a dozen scribes wrote individual scenes knowing only what came immediately before and immediately after in the plot. How else would our heroes be targeted by an elite Russian assassin in one scene, and later be tortured by the same woman, her assignment now being to keep them alive until they divulge what they know? Spy movies are always stuffed with double-triple-quadruple crosses, but in this one, we suspect even the filmmakers can’t tell the good guys from the bad.
A hodgepodge of genre tropes that leaves its stars stranded.
Kunis plays Audrey, whose relationship with Justin Theroux’s Drew ended days ago via text. She has no idea that he’s currently in Lithuania, pulling all manner of Jason Bourne moves as he tries to evade killers. He ignores all her calls and texts until McKinnon’s Morgan, trying to rescue Audrey’s self-respect, threatens to set all Drew’s possessions on fire. Finally he calls back, says “some bad people are after me” and begs her to delay the bonfire.
By the next day, Audrey has learned Drew works for the CIA, watched him die and been told she must get a cheap plastic trophy to a rendezvous in Vienna by 11 o’clock the next morning. She and Morgan flee to the airport, where, despite being the least inconspicuous smugglers of valuable contraband in recent memory, they manage to board a plane.
Things go rather badly at the rendezvous — even the cheese fondue gets weaponized — and the ladies are soon rushing all over Europe, trying to hide their identities until they can figure out what to do with the inevitable USB drive they’ve found hidden in that trophy.
A bright spot comes when Morgan calls home for help: Her parents, played by Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser, offer a silly suburban respite from spy-flick cliches. (The movie will later ruin even this, making Dad such an idiot he can’t work the volume on his own TV — possibly the least plausible gag in the whole film.) But the pic is more invested in Audrey’s interaction with Sebastian (Sam Heughan), a hunky British agent who may or may not have her best interests at heart. Mere hours after watching her boyfriend die, Audrey’s getting awfully flustered around Mr. MI6; she trusts him with the flash drive (which contains, we now know, “a back door to the entire internet”), and goes undercover with him to the usual Fancy People Event where the action will come to a head.
For a film that expects us to be offended on Morgan’s behalf when someone calls her flamboyant personality “a little much,” The Spy Who Dumped Me is surprisingly shameless in the stupid things it gives her to do. (One bit of goofiness that works: Morgan’s awestruck crush on a no-nonsense spymaster played by Gillian Anderson.) McKinnon dives head-first into every imbecilic scene, and Kunis stoically pretends to believe her BFF is sentient. But the movie around them is a wreck, and no amount of cloak-and-dagger will keep that secret for long.
Production companies: Imagine Entertainment, Lionsgate
Cast: Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan, Hasan Minhaj, Gillian Anderson, Ivanna Sakhno, Jane Curtin, Paul Reiser
Director: Susanna Fogel
Screenwriters: Susanna Fogel, David Iserson
Producers: Brian Grazer, Erica Huggins
Executive producers: Jason Cloth, Karen Lunder, Guy Riedel
Director of photography: Barry Peterson
Production designer: Marc Homes
Costume designer: Alex Bovaird
Editor: Jonathan Schwartz
Composer: Tyler Bates
Casting director: Tricia Wood
Rated R, 116 minutes