The Spy Who Dumped Me follows the story of two best friends, Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon) who are inadvertently dragged into a chaotic international conspiracy after discovering that the former’s ex-boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) is a spy.
As with most contemporary spy comedies, the stakes are set outlandishly high; their mission – though there was no option of ‘choosing to accept it’ – is to save the world from a mysterious threat which has already compromised Drew’s cover. In doing so, the two women race around Europe, facing off assassins at every corner with the help of the attractive-yet-shady British agent, Sebastian (Sam Heughan).
This is already quite a tenuous storyline, but the ultimate narrative adds twists that are strangely predictable yet never explained. Director and co-writer Susanna Fogel creates an absurd plot from the outset and attempts to portray it as having the potential to pose a serious threat. She then tries to balance this with continuous light-hearted comedy (as well as some powerful feminist themes) but nothing ever quite clicks.
The outcome is a confusing tone that manages to only partially fulfil its many ambitions. What’s more, the humour here is passable at best. Kunis and McKinnon are the real driving force behind the film, and they use their chemistry to elevate poor gags to a tolerable standard. The greatest chuckles admittedly come when Saturday Night Live star McKinnon uses her improvisational skills to provide some killer one-liners alongside an otherwise mediocre script. Both Kunis and McKinnon succeed in making their friendship extremely convincing, as if they’ve been friends for years; their charisma manages to make some unbelievable circumstances significantly more personal, possibly the greatest achievement of the feature.
Yet sadly, it does not compensate for the absent magnetism in Kunis and Theroux’s on-screen relationship, on which the entire premise of the film is built. It is unfortunate that the couple’s background is shown through a series of rather dull flashbacks, thus giving their rapport very little time to truly flesh out. The fundamental failure to persuade the viewer that they were in an intimate relationship gives the story a rather dreary conviction throughout.
It’s all quite frustrating, as nothing feels as if it were done to its full potential. The Spy Who Dumped Me is essentially a less intelligent version of 2015’s dazzlingly funny Spy (directed by Paul Feig), which saw Melissa McCarthy as the unwitting hero thrust into a shadowy worldwide scheme. In every way that Feig’s film was sharp and streamlined, The Spy Who Dumped Me is tremendously bleak, epitomised by its careless emphasis on expletives, as if to cover up the incoherency of the plot.
Morgan’s character is at one point described as “a little much”. Indeed, this phrase is probably truer of the film itself in that The Spy Who Dumped Me bites off more than it can chew, ultimately failing in its mission to produce an engaging espionage rib-tickler.
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