'The Spy Who Dumped Me': Man, They Could Have Done This Better
The most surprising thing about the action-comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me is that it racks up a higher body count in 117 minutes than the comparatively somber stunt spectacular Mission: Impossible — Fallout does in 147. It's one of a pitifully small number of movies this summer directed by a woman (feature film sophomore Susanna Fogel, who co-wrote and directed 2014's Life Partners); she and David Iserson wrote the script to this farce, which stars Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon as roommates drawn semi-willingly into an international conspiracy.
I take no pleasure in executing my sworn duty to inform you that the movie is neither as thrilling as the well-coiffed 1977 James Bond adventure The Spy Who Loved Me nor as funny as (or any less juvenile than) its 1999 Mike Myers parody The Spy Who Shagged Me. McKinnon, as always, is an unhinged delight, but she and Kunis just don't have enough chemistry to push this grisly tale of friendship-conquers-all over the hump.
With its R-rating and its frequent shootouts, fights, and car chases, Dumped clearly wants to channel the winning Paul Feig-directed Melissa McCarthy vehicle Spy. But it lacks that film's righteous zeal for demolishing sexist stereotypes, in the workplace and in the movies. It also doesn't surprise us by letting any of its key players do anything we haven't seen them do many times before. Remember how great it was when Spy gave the usually stone-faced tough guy Jason Statham a chance to be a goofball?
Kunis fairly sleepwalks through her scenes, unable to vibrate on the same comic frequency as McKinnon or Gillian Anderson, as a senior MI6 official. The Daily Show's Hasan Minhaj is irritating but unfunny as a Harvard-grad C.I.A. agent who can't stop mentioning his alma mater, and Outlander's Sam Heughan is his handsome but blank MI6 counterpart, forced by the script into an unpersuasive flirtation with the Kunis character. A parade of walk-ons from several generations of beloved TV comedians only underscores that the movie is overlong by at least 20 minutes.
Not that it takes even that long to go off-track. The plot kicks in when Justin Theroux's character breaks up with Kunis via transcontinental text message. (He's a watchacallit, spy, though Kunis has bought into the ruse that he makes his living as an, ahem, NPR podcaster.) When McKinnon snatches her friend's phone away to reply that the ladies are burning all the property he left at their apartment, he's forced to return, bringing danger in his wake. Clearly, he's left some priceless MacGuffin stashed at their place, so why would he risk Kunis' anger by sending that breakup message before he had that MacGuffin back in his possession? The shaggy plotting wouldn't be so easy to spot if the gags were better.
Dumped is due some modest credit for employing Ukranian actor Ivanna Sakhno as a gymnast/assassin, whose otherworldly poise gives her a genuine air of menace. This casting also allows the film to climax in a trapeze-fight between Sakhno and McKinnon, who has taken it upon herself to go undercover as a circus performer.
This film also has what might be the best and only Edward Snowden joke in a spy thriller ever. So it's a history-minded August time-waster. McKinnon is fun to watch in anything, but The Spy Who Dumped Me is For Completists' Eyes Only.
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