The Spy Who Dumped Me is being marketed as an action-comedy but it isn’t really that. There is action and there is comedy, but describing it as an action-comedy is like calling Planes, Trains and Automobiles a travelogue. The heart of The Spy Who Dumped Me is the friendship between Audrey, whom we are supposed to believe is some kind of late-blooming wallflower even though she is played by Mila Kunis, and Morgan, who is Kate McKinnon. The setup is that Audrey’s ex-boyfriend (Justin Theroux and his untrustworthy eyebrows) plunges them into a world of assassins and espionage, but the story is about two friends almost ruthlessly supporting each other during a very bad European vacation. And that is what makes Spy work, because the action and the comedy are both mediocre, but the relationship between Audrey and Morgan is wonderful.
The movie starts with Drew (Theroux) in an involved chase in Europe as, back home, Audrey and Morgan turn to cleansing fire to rid Audrey of the specter of Drew’s sudden disappearance from her life. Only it turns out that Drew hid an important Macguffin with Audrey, and now she and Morgan are on the run from the CIA, MI-6, and international assassins. One thing to appreciate about The Spy Who Dumped Me, it does not waste time. The setup is quick and clear and soon enough Audrey and Morgan are careening around Europe. There is not a lot of actual story, and the characters are all very basic—Audrey is diffident, Morgan is a theater kid!—but it moves quick and Kunis and McKinnon have good rapport and enough of McKinnon’s jokes land to keep you laughing consistently.
It doesn’t measure up to Melissa McCarthy’s Spy, though, mostly because the guys of The Spy Who Dumped Me are all a little bland. Spy has Jude Law doing his best cinematic cad, and Jason Statham doing his best Jason Statham. They’re supporting characters, but every single second they are on screen they are contributing (especially Statham). The dudes of Dumped are just kind of occupying space. Hasan Minhaj has the best recurring bit as a dickhead Harvard alum who can’t stop mentioning that he went to Harvard, but Theroux is playing a generic bad boyfriend type and Outlander’s Sam Heughan is clearly using this as James Bond practice for when that role comes open in a few years. They’re not the main focus, they don’t have to take up a lot of space, but when they are on screen they could be better utilized comedically. (Jason Statham really set a high bar here.)
But Kunis and McKinnon definitely get it done. As per usual, McKinnon gets all the laughs, and Kunis makes a perfectly fine straightwoman. Morgan and Audrey are almost fanatically devoted to one another, and while The Spy Who Dumped Me is paint-by-numbers action, the friendship-centric material is gold. And it’s not just them, British comedian Lolly Adefope has a great bit as that one girl who says everything in a super supportive tone but is just sh*t-talking you to your face. Every friend group has that girl somewhere in it, and she NAILS it. Dumped does drop the ball, though, with the generic Eastern European model-assassin Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno). It’s a nice nod to Zoolander, but given that the movie is really about friendship, it is a little surprising that Audrey and Morgan don’t end up bonding with Nadedja. There was a chance to do a little more and be a bit sharper, but The Spy Who Dumped Me consistently settles for mediocre, and is largely saved by Kate McKinnon dragging it up a couple notches.
The Spy Who Dumped Me isn’t as good as Spy or as fizzy as Ocean’s 8 but it’s a decent buddy comedy and really, Kate McKinnon is SO good. She does a lot of her trademark mugging, but she gets a nice emotional arc late in the movie that hints at her ability to do a lot more than comedies. The Spy Who Dumped Me is not the most memorable or the most hilarious, but it is perfectly pleasant while it is happening. And bonus points for the Cheesecake Factory joke.
Here are Kate and Mila on the Today Show this week and Kate on Fallon on Wednesday.