The Spy Who Dumped Me Review
The Script is Not Enough
Comedy queens Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis team up for this girl power spy comedy all about heartbreak turned into international heists and espionage escapades.Following in the footsteps of recent female-led comedies, The Spy Who Dumped Me employs two of comedy's most marketable female leads in a heist/slapstick/espionage film with a unique concept that immediately invokes satirical memories of James Bond and Austin Powers.
Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon) have been best friends for years. They’ve got the kind of easy-going, laidback friendship that we’ve come to know and love from buddy comedies.
It gets off to a pretty good start.
The major action point of the plot shouldn’t be much of a surprise, nor a spoiler; Audrey has been dumped – by text, even – by a spy (Justin Theroux). What happens next (to no one’s surprise) is an international chase involving the universal Macguffin, a slick secret agent and the ubiquitous untrustworthy Eastern European spy.
It gets off to a pretty good start; the gags come thick and fast, delivered with panache, and when we start checking off spy movie conventions it is, initially, very funny. There are times when action scenes involving fast-flying gunfire and dozens of apparently hapless well-trained fighters are both entertaining and clearly a send-up of the genre (see, suitcase shield and taxi seatbelt).
The problems arise when it seems as though writers David Iserson and Susanna Fogel (who also directs) run out of jokes, and storyline. No one would accuse Melissa McCarthy’s Spy(2015) of being a masterclass in narrative, but the plot here seems very much on the wafer side of thin. The only way you won’t guess pretty much every twist and turn in the plot is if you’ve literally never seen a spy/espionage movie before.
That said, it can at times be difficult to follow the storyline, as we’re constantly unsure who’s the real bad-guy. A good shout turns out to be a former gymnast turned deadly assassin (Ivana Sakhno) whose attempts at villainy revive the flagging plot somewhat, alongside Sam Heughan’s almost-untrustworthy British agent.
Like everyone after a breakup, the film seems to go through a bit of an identity crisis. Whether it’s a buddy comedy/spy thriller/espionage heist/action film/slapstick comedy, the fact is that the script doesn’t quite live up to its excellent leads.
Like everyone after a breakup, the film seems to go through a bit of an identity crisis.
As always, McKinnon is spectacular, and Kunis’ well-proven comedy chops make her the perfect foil; the sardonic, unflappable sidekick to McKinnon’s wild and wacky livewire. Though the script includes some less-than-effortless gags (take, for example, the fact that McKinnon’s character’s surname is Freeman), our leading ladies make light work of it. In the end, it feels as though the film could have used a little more exposition and riffing from the Kunis-McKinnon axis rather than numerous wild goose car chases and surprisingly violent bullet-ridden action scenes.
It's a tad frustrating that the film fails to live up to its stellar concept. The world of spy films has been crying out for a female-driven film. From the all-business Bourne series to the semi-serious clashes of James Bond to the silly spectacle of Kingsman, there’s not really been much legitimate exploration of the female perspective.
With a run-time of two hours, The Spy Who Dumped Me is long by conventional comedy standards, but Fogel quickly establishes characters and immerses the audience into the surreal world of the film, and the first hour is gripping, funny and cutting. By the halfway point, however, you get the impression that everyone’s having to work that little bit too hard to get to the end of the second hour.
The script doesn’t quite live up to its excellent leads.
It’s fun, there are some really good jokes and the McKinnon’s energy and Kunis’ dry humour keep the film afloat. Fogel’s direction is smart and effective, but in the end the script can’t sustain itself with not enough jokes and a plotline that’s weak even by modern comedy standards. What could have been a really clever, unique and memorably funny film is undone by too much screen time and just not enough material. That said, the great first half further proves that there is a market for female-led comedies, and should cement McKinnon as one of the premium female comic leads out there.
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