Susanna Fogel made her debut with Life Partners, a film about a co-dependent female friendship. For her big-budget follow up, The Spy Who Dumped Me, Fogel effectively and refreshingly brings some of that core concept along with her, but it’s unfortunately often bogged down in an espionage caper that never quite takes off. At this point, a spy spoof is pretty much as predictable and trope-reliant as the genre it’s making fun of, and though having two women taking the lead is an undeniable jump forward, neither the laughs nor the drama are strong enough to sustain this story over two hours.
These central women are Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon), two best friends chucked into the middle of an international conspiracy when it’s revealed that Audrey’s ex-boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) was a CIA superspy who left world-changing secrets in Audrey’s apartment. Audrey and Morgan zip around Europe chasing down MacGuffin-y leads, pursued by both the law and a terrorist cabal. It’s all very silly and weightless, which is forgivable in a comedy jaunt, but the ease with which the friends slip into a world of brutal murder throws the characterisation off pretty early.
Keeping everything moving and engaging is the dynamic between the two leads, especially a very game performance from McKinnon. Their chemistry is great; they’re instantly believable as long-term friends with inside jokes that are infectiously funny. A lot of the gags hit, even if the laughs aren’t as consistently big as one might want. You end up wishing that Fogel and co-writer David Iserson’s script had found more time for the excellent quiet moments between Audrey and Morgan instead of action set-pieces or an unnecessary romantic subplot between Audrey and MI6 agent Sebastian (Sam Heughan).
McKinnon gets the lion’s share of the best lines and set-pieces, but Kunis still shines in the kind of star role that she gets too infrequently. They’re often better than the movie around them, elevating what might otherwise be rather rote stuff. Aside from its stars, where The Spy Who Dumped Me really separates itself from the pack is in just how violent it is. With a lot of gleeful comedy gore, it’s a lot more graphically gruesome than the films (mainly Bourne and Mission Impossible) it’s parodying.
The Spy Who Dumped Me isn’t going to win any awards for originality or a capacity to surprise and certainly didn’t need to be two hours long. Yet, on the strength of Kunis and McKinnon, it manages to stay diverting throughout and make the idea of the pair of them doing a lower-concept buddy comedy together terrifically appealing.