In “The Spy Who Dumped Me”, a guy breaks up with Mila Kunis. While she’s blasting through the stages of grief at the speed of a two-hour movie, the CIA appears and casually informs her—despite the fact that she’s an ordinary citizen with no security clearance to speak of—that her ex is a CIA agent. After more insanity and inanity, she chooses to trust someone who broke up with her over a text rather than believe the Central Intelligence Agency. Off to Europe she flies, hoping to aid in her ex-boyfriend’s spy mission!
If it bothers you that none of that makes sense, well, the rest of the movie is far from your cup of tea. Audrey dashes in and out of violent situations completely unscathed, escaping shootouts by pure luck and instantly acquiring the skills she needs to survive car chases and espionage escapades. Every deadly danger is a breeze for her to dodge, and as a result, “The Spy Who Dumped Me” is awfully breezy. The tension and suspense that typically typify the spy genre are missing entirely. As hazards fly by without presenting much of a problem for the protagonists, the movie’s breeze carries less and less weight.
It doesn’t satirize or deconstruct this airy disposition like the similarly structured “22 Jump Street”. Where that film poked fun at its own promise not to disrupt the status quo, “The Spy Who Dumped Me” avoids consequences and real conflict by nature. It’s lighthearted fun; it’s just not the kind of fun that you’ll remember hours later.
Thankfully, “The Spy Who Dumped Me” has a secret weapon: Kate McKinnon. The SNL star is Audrey’s wacky best friend Morgan—the foil to Audrey’s straight woman, a dynamic that is wholly original and not at all played out—and she relishes every line, funny or otherwise. The ‘otherwise’ is no joke: though this movie is technically a comedy, it doesn’t always register as one. Its funniest jokes are non-sequiturs that have little to do with plot or genre. When attempts are made to riff on spy movie mainstays or comment on the scenes at hand, the jokes aren’t even trying. Perhaps that’s why the non-sequiturs work: randomness has oddball charm regardless of context.
But they’re funny mostly because Kate McKinnon gets to deliver them. McKinnon is a comedic charm. She has utterly mastered the art of hilarious body language: no matter how listless the dialogue or how anemic the action, her eyes, movements, and vocal inflections make every scene she’s in worthwhile. She’s a powerhouse that chews up unimpressive writing and somehow spits out comedic gold. Mila Kunis does good work too, but next to McKinnon, anyone would seem like an apprentice in acerbic wit.
There is something to be said for the feminist heart that the movie wears on its sleeve, which delightfully eschews regressive spy tropes—minus the mandatory romance, of course. But if you want a much funnier spy satire with women at the forefront, there’s one out there with four less words than “The Spy Who Dumped Me”, and it stars Melissa McCarthy.