I went into this film optimistic. Yes, the trailer looks terrible, and the script is weak and the plot is cheesier and holey-er than a slice of Emmental, but, Kate McKinnon. Aside from being the biggest, best and funniest in her regular slots on SNL, her big screen debut in the all female reboot of Ghostbusters (2016) firmly cemented her reputation for being a sparkling comedic presence. Sadly, even McKinnon couldn’t save this bland, unfunny, girls-gone-wild caper, delivering poorly-scripted lines by yelling and sticking out her tongue.
The comedy, or lack there of, isn’t the only problem with The Spy Who Dumped, a title that may have duped many an unsuspecting cinema-goer by being smarter than the film itself. The problem with this movie is that it strives to be so many things and doesn’t do any of them right. The violence is extreme and goofy, the kind you might see in an Edgar Wright movie except this isn’t an Edgar Wright movie and the gore just seems out of sync when set against the attempts of spoofy comedy. The film also takes tentative steps into rom-com territory that leads onto a number of bizarrely unfunny series of vagina gags. Director Susanna Fogel clearly had big ideas for this girl-power spy spoof romp, but ultimately fails to see them through.
Audrey (Mila Kunis) is the titular dumpee who fell in love with her boyfriend Drew/The Spy (Justin Theroux) only to be brutally dumped a year later by a single line of text. Her loyal but ‘a little bit too much’ best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) is a steadfast source of comfort and empowerment, as Audrey tries to stop everyone from finding out how empty her life suddenly is. One day, whilst working her day job as a checkout girl, Audrey’s world is turned upside down as MI6 heart-throb/eye-candy/hot stuff Sebastian kidnaps her and reveals all about Drew’s secret life.
Both Audrey and Morgan wind up on a whirlwind of car chases, shootouts, trapeze and torture as they take a whistle stop tour across Europe. Easily the most unconvincing part of the film is how the two of them manage to afford all this travel, given that Audrey is a checkout girl and Morgan is an out of work actress.
McKinnon’s talent for comic improv is seldom harnessed properly by producers, and Fogel has made the same mistake: pairing up Mckinnon with an attractive yet not quite as enigmatic leading lady and cropping her screen time funnies for dull romantic plot.
Underlying the whole story is meant to be a tale of female empowerment – a film with a female director and two female leads is great news considering the sausage fest blockbuster summer we’ve just had – but it doesn’t really work without substantial character development.
Morgan gives a great number of passionate ‘go-get-em-girl’ speeches to Audrey, reminding her of how wonderful and capable she is, but both characters are simply a checklist of cliched quirks. Audrey is hot, funny but not too funny because she’s hot and also smart but not too smart because, again, she’s hot. Morgan is the loud and brash best friend who gets all the best gags but sadly not the guy.
There’s a rather delightful cameo from Gillian Anderson in the role of MI6 chief Wendy who executes the role of ‘Judi Dench style’ spy chief brilliantly and proves to have excellent onscreen comedic chemistry with Mckinnon. Russian Olympic gymnast turned assassin Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno) is satisfyingly brutal taking cold pleasure torturing the two leads.
Ultimately, there’s a lot resting on McKinnon’s shoulders in this film, as you watch her desperately in the hope that something good will happen. Both plot and character are disappointingly underdeveloped and to call it a comedy is a stretch.
Kudos to the advertising team for putting all the best jokes in the trailer and making the film look way better than it is – I was persuaded to part with my money for this film, as I’m sure, were many others. So well done. Hopefully Mckinnon’s next movie will make better use of her talents.