The Spy Who Dumped Me isn’t a sequel to Austin Powers, but a spy action adventure comedy starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon and directed by Susanna Fogel. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the British mystery man had something to do with it based on the name. The Spy Who Dumped Me isn’t a spoof, but more of a buddy movie as Audrey and Morgan find themselves at the centre of a globetrotting, high-stakes game of cats and mice. As we learn of the circumstances surrounding her romantic relationship with an undercover spy in a series of flashbacks, the present day scenario finds the modern day Thelma & Louise duo on the run with a top-secret package trying to stay one step ahead of criminals and government agencies.
Mila Kunis has become synonymous with comedies, ranging from her lead role in Bad Moms to more traditional romantic leads. Her big eyes and just-roll-with-it attitude have become something of a trademark for the Hollywood starlet who doesn’t seem to have aged much since her breakthrough role on That ’70s Show. While she is the headline star, it’s Kate McKinnon who steals most of the scenes. Having played opposite Melissa McCarthy in the all-female remake of The Ghostbusters, McKinnon has arrived in Hollywood like a flash bang grenade. While she looks similar to Kristen Bell, she’s a veritable jill-in-the-box, grabbing the spotlight with both hands and a double dose of confidence.
The Spy Who Dumped Me’s secret weapon is McKinnon, but it also relies on a selection of sharp supporting roles. Justin Theroux has a serious Bruce Campbell sensibility as an action man, Sam Heughan operates like a name star, Hasan Minhaj works well as his opinionated partner, the porcelain-featured Ivanna Sakhno has a The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo vibration while it’s great to see appearances from the likes of more seasoned stars such as Gillian Anderson, Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser.
“We’ve got to blend in… be one with the plebs.”
While positioned as a comedy, The Spy Who Dumped Me is not shy when it comes to action sequences. The opening gambit demonstrates that Fogel is dexterous, able to shift weight from one genre to the other with relative ease. Explosive, pulsating and fluently choreographed, these action set pieces are a few shades short of Jason Bourne territory. While surprisingly agile, it’s equally surprising that this seemingly bouncy comedy can be brutally violent without flinching. The comic undertone is a double-edged sword, diminishing the impact value of full throttle violence and then shocking you with its unabashed apathy. The mix of action and comedy is in a state of flux with Fogel never quite settling into a comfortable middle ground. While this tonal imbalance would ordinarily distort one’s enjoyment, it helps level out some of the hit-and-miss comedy writing, keeping one guessing.
The Spy Who Dumped Me has plenty of highlights, ranging from hilarious interplay to outrageous stunts, and works hard to entertain. The performances are convincing, despite the wink-wink undercurrent, and while there are a number of clichés within the espionage genre, it never becomes dull. The language is coarse and much like the recent deluge of Melissa McCarthy comedy vehicles, it’s not afraid to poke fun at itself, be embarrassingly crass or go over the top silly.
The Spy Who Dumped Me is similarly poised to the action comedy romance, Mr. Right, starring Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell and action comedy, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson. Both action comedies struggle to find the right balance in terms of tone, featured charming co-leads and demonstrated a knack for legitimate action set pieces with some serious bite.
While intermittently crass, overlong and violent, these shortcomings are almost excused by its fun nature, spectacular European backdrops, commitment to entertain and somewhat unpredictable sense of excitement. The Spy Who Dumped Me is not a great movie, or a particularly memorable one, but seems to coast on its star quality and “speak to the hand” spirit. It’s definitely not for everyone but will appeal to those who liked Melissa McCarthy in Spy or any of the aforementioned films.
The bottom line: Zany