WHAT kind of movie The Spy Who Dumped Me is could be irrelevant.
Sure, it’s an action comedy that borrows heavily from and subverts the likes of Bond, Bourne and Mission Impossible. But that’s just a platform for what is the movie’s primary purpose — to give Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon two hours to riff.
As best friends Audrey and Morgan, Kunis and McKinnon have a sparkling screen chemistry and the rhythmical pit-a-patter of their dialogue is an utter delight to witness. They crackle with a magical energy, McKinnon especially, who seems to hit the perfect note on every joke.
It’s the kind of female pairing that made a classic out of Thelma And Louise, or why you’ll watch anything Tina Fey and Amy Poehler do together.
But it also means your opinion of The Spy Who Dumped Me is going to be based almost entirely on how susceptible you are to the charms of those great performances.
As the title implies, Audrey is dumped by her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) who turns out to be a super secret CIA spy. He’s left something — a MacGuffin — in her possession. When she tells him she’s going to burn his stuff, he hightails to it back, only to be killed right in front of her, but not before he tells her of an assignation with a “Verne” at a cafe in Vienna.
Audrey and Morgan fly to Vienna, where it becomes apparent — like gun fight apparent — they are in quite a lot of danger.
Chasing them across Vienna, Prague, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin include a pair of Russian baddies, a particularly fierce ex-gymnast assassin and an MI6 agent named Sebastian (Outlander’s Sam Heughan).
The story itself is ludicrous — logically, there is no way they wouldn’t have face-planted at the first hurdle — but you really do have to be forgiving of these missteps if you want to enjoy yourself.
But all those leaps can be chalked up to the movie’s feminist spirit, of not underestimating Audrey and Morgan because they are the most haplessly competent non-spies who’ve ever scraped their way through an action comedy. It’s of the Tyra Banks/Oprah school of, “Let’s celebrate you, own it!”
The Spy Who Dumped Me is oddly excessively violent, which might be director and co-writer Susanna Fogel’s way of fulfilling the idea that women can play in the muck just as well as the men, which Morgan illustrates at one point by yelling out, “Women can be terrorists too!”
Unfortunately, all that violence, blood splatter and some of the crudest moments is also what keeps the tone from being more consistent — Fogel doesn’t balance that hand-off with enough finesse. The good intentions are there but the execution is lacking.
There are some appealing supporting performances from Jane Curtain and Paul Reiser as Morgan’s very doting and ultra understanding parents — the umbilical cord between Morgan and her folks having never quite been severed.
Heughan cuts a dashing figure and as much as you can appreciate the aesthetic pleasure he brings to the endeavour, his increased presence in the third act actually drags the movie down.
Nothing against the Scotsman, it’s that he gets in the way of what is The Spy Who Dumps Me’s best asset, that irresistible screwball dynamic between Kunis and McKinnon.
Most of the jokes and gags land well — anyone who can pull off a Balzac/ball-sack bit has my vote — and there is a no-boundaries honesty to what Audrey and Morgan will say that’s mostly winsome.
Ultimately, what makes The Spy Who Dumped Me an enjoyable experience is what Kunis and McKinnon bring to the table.