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Arts & Life

Summer Movies: 'Searching' And 'The Spy Who Dumped Me'


On this Wednesday morning, let's think ahead to the weekend. Why the heck not? We're going to tell you about two new movies. We've got a comedy for you. But let's start with a thriller.


COLIN WOODELL: (As 911 Operator) 9-1-1, what's your emergency?

JOHN CHO: (As David Kim) I'm calling to report a missing person.

WOODELL: (As 911 Operator) OK. Who is this regarding?

CHO: (As David Kim) My daughter.

MARTIN: That is from the film "Searching," which stars John Cho. And it had our next guest on the edge of her seat. Claudia Puig is president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

CLAUDIA PUIG: Basically, John Cho is a widowed father who finds out that his teenage daughter is missing. And it unfolds completely on computer and smartphone screens, all the investigation that he does as an agonized father. So there's no external camera.

MARTIN: That is crazy.

PUIG: I know.

MARTIN: And also, I would think, maybe distracting as an audience member when you're watching this.

PUIG: Strangely, no. It isn't. Because we spend so much time on our screens, it feels so natural. He's in - also...

MARTIN: Right.

PUIG: (Laughter) He's, you know - he's...

MARTIN: Because the world we live in now.

PUIG: Exactly. And then, because it is a missing persons thriller, you know, he's searching. And what is the best place to search for a teenager and to kind of get a sense of where she might be? You go through all her social media. And you check Instagram. You check Facebook. You check everything. And it makes sense in the structure of the narrative.

MARTIN: Also really does play on a parent's worst nightmares - right? - that you...

PUIG: Absolutely.

MARTIN: ...You have one idea of what your kid's life is like. And turns out, you have no idea.

PUIG: Right. It plays on, you know, our fears of not exactly knowing what our kids are up to and the fact that we spend so much time on our devices.

MARTIN: I mean, this, we should say, is a bit of a departure from a man who is most famous for playing Harold in the "Harold And Kumar" franchise. I think we can call it that.

PUIG: (Laughter) Yes.

MARTIN: I mean, they were ridiculous. They were, like, slapstick films. I will confess to not loving them. But I love John Cho. I mean...

PUIG: Right.

MARTIN: ...He has taken on some more serious roles, hasn't he?

PUIG: He has. He did a film last year called "Columbus" in which he was the lead. And it was a really very thoughtful performance, a really good film. It kind of was - it was not as noticed as it should have been, underappreciated. He's really turning his career in a more thoughtful, little more serious direction. And I think he can do anything. I kind of see him as a - he has a Cary Grant kind of quality. I just think he's a really, really good actor. And I'd like to see more of him.

MARTIN: All right. Let's move to another movie that has caught your eye and attention this August. It is called "The Spy Who Dumped Me," starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon.


JUSTIN THEROUX: (As Drew) Some bad people are after me, and now they're after you.

MILA KUNIS: (As Audrey) If we don't deliver this package to Vienna, a lot of people are going to die.

KATE MCKINNON: (As Morgan) Do you want to die having never been to Europe, or do you want to go to Europe and die having been to Europe?

KUNIS: (As Audrey) Why are those my only two options?


PUIG: (Laughter).

MARTIN: ...I love this pairing. Whoever thought Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis should be in, like, a buddy chick movie is genius.

PUIG: It - and you know what's great about it, too, is that they have a woman director, Susanna Fogel, and co-writer. And that makes a big difference. She lets women do everything that a man would do in spy thrillers and buddy action comedies without the kind of ogling of the camera. There's no glorifying violence or nudity. The male gaze isn't involved here, which is really nice for a change.

MARTIN: How refreshing.

PUIG: Yes.

MARTIN: What - should we even talk about the plot? I mean, is the plot interesting...

PUIG: The plot is (laughter)...

MARTIN: ...To be fair?

PUIG: Yeah. I mean, the plot, at times, may not - when you look back on it, you kind of go, did that really make sense? But it's very globetrotting. They go to Berlin and Paris and Vienna. And there's this great action sequence in Vienna where they're in this very elegant tea room. It's like this showdown. And they use every implement in the tea room, including the coffee machines, as these lethal props. McKinnon will do anything and everything. She's so uninhibited. And Mila is more the straight man here. You know, it's fun, escapist summer fare, probably enhanced with a couple of cocktails before you go in.


PUIG: You know, it's not a perfect film. But it's fun.

MARTIN: Claudia Puig is president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association with her August movie picks.

MARTIN: Claudia, thanks so much as always.

PUIG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.