I am dangerously close to giving up on Kate McKinnon, she seems unable to find a quality role in a good movie to save her life.
“The Spy Who Dumped Me” stars Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon as two friends who must go on the run from assassins across Europe after one of their ex-boyfriends turns out to be a hunted CIA agent. Justin Theroux and Sam Heughan also star as Susanna Fogel directs.
The action-comedy is a film genre as old as time so unless someone were to really think outside the box there isn’t a storyline or thematic approach that could be taken to be radically different. “The Spy Who Dumped Me” is more than comfortable hitting all the familiar notes from a dozen previous (and better) films, and along the way loses sight of any and all goals, whether they are comedy or action-related, it originally set out with.
I like Mila Kunis and used to really like Kate McKinnon, but they both rarely seem to choose projects that are worthy of the quality of work they have shown they’re capable of. Kunis is fine as second-fiddle in “Ted” and solid in “Bad Moms” but is not in/wasted in each respective sequel and also in whatever the hell “Jupiter Ascending” was. Here Kunis gets to do all the lifting alongside McKinnon and when she is actually given a joke that works, it lands; the problem is the script gives her almost no jokes that work. McKinnon, brilliant on SNL, has never been in an objectively good film, simply doing weird exaggerated voices and facial expressions through the likes of “Office Christmas Party,” “Rough Night” and the “Ghostbusters” reboot. Fans of hers will love her overreacting and random riffs here but those who are growing tired of the one-note act will again roll their eyes and/or cringe. The two have modest chemistry together but I can’t imagine anyone will be clamoring to see them star in another vehicle anytime soon.
So the comedy isn’t very good, but what about the action? Well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. There are actually some incredibly fun and creative moments including one tracking shot where the camera follows a character who jumps out a window and rolls off a truck (it actually prompted me to say “that was cool” out loud). There are also a few entertaining shootout sequences that are shot quite competently. However there are also a lot of over-the-top deaths simply for the sake of being over-the-top and gory and they create this conflicting tone; half the time this plays like a breezy buddy romp and then suddenly it turns into something out of “Saw.”
By the end of the film the plot becomes practically incoherent, with underdeveloped (or completely unexplained) motivations, lazy writing (a character gets shot and is completely healed mere hours later) and a bad guy organization that is introduced in the third act. The pacing and editing also has some issues, with the film feeling as if it is building towards the climax for about 45 minutes.
“The Spy Who Dumped Me” is one of those movies that is not inherently *bad* but it is bland yet just competently made enough that you wish it was better. Kunis and McKinnon try their best and as a director Fogel seems to have an eye for action, but the script she co-wrote with David Iserson lets everyone down. There are funnier comedies, better action films and more intriguing spy pictures out there (Melissa McCarthy’s “Spy” checks all three of those boxes) and there is little reason to recommend this to all but the least-demanding filmgoer.
Critic’s Grade: D+