Stop right there, Bond, Bourne and Ethan Hunt. In the slight-if-hysterical farce The Spy Who Dumped Me, Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon show all these debonair international men of mystery how to get the job done while serving up a trunk-load of laughs. The actresses are shaken but not stirred. They complete the mission to revive the female buddy action-comedy. And, ultimately, the two have supremacy.
Kunis and McKinnon play longtime best friends that skip all over the globe — because espionage is never limited to just downtown Los Angeles — to thwart the bad guys. The goons want a flash drive that contains trade secrets, while the ladies are in a race against the clock to get it to the government. In true super-duper-spy fashion, the adventures escalate at a rapidly unsettling rate. Kunis is meeting a contact at a restaurant . . . then embroiled in a shoot-out! There will be blood . . . and ill-timed vomiting! They’re not above shoplifting fanny packs from female strangers in a bid to change identities, either.
How did they find themselves in this mess? In a shocking development, it can all can be traced back to a shifty, noncommittal guy. Kunis’ Audrey had been dating Drew (Justin Theroux, terribly miscast) for a year. He just dumped her via text message. But soon after McKinnon’s Morgan convinces her to light his crap on fire, Audrey learns the big secret: Drew was a government agent. And now this supermarket check-out girl in a tacky Hawaiian shirt must jet to Vienna immediately to complete an important transaction. And Morgan must tag along. Rationalizes McKinnon, “Our passports are still in the glove compartment from that trip to Tijuana!”
The espionage plot, complete with double agents and a car chase through a narrow cobbled street, is so generic that it might as well have been cribbed from Spy Movies for Dummies. Clearly cowriters Susanna Fogel (who also directed) and David Iserson were too caught up in the girls’ fish-out-of-water goofiness to stick them in a halfway decent action story. Unlike the fresher 2015 Melissa McCarthy vehicle Spy, the Spy Who Dumped Me does not pay homage to the genre’s roots while gleefully sending it up. And it could have used an infusion of lethal satire.
But, hey, who needs neck-snapping when you’ve got snappy one-liners?
The talented Kunis and McKinnon are funny. Not just I’m-reading-amusing-dialogue-in-an-amusing-way funny. Comedy seeps out of their pores, excuse the weird visual. I keep trying to describe the word for McKinnon’s style of humor here, and I’m leaning toward dangerous. The Saturday Night Live two-time Emmy winner delivers each cut with a droll sensibility. Her two-second takedown on the laborious Cheesecake Factory menu had my screening room howling in laughter. Kunis, the better, more experienced actress, is her voice of reason straight-woman. She also does the literal heavy lifting, often tasked with performing broad stunts and wheeling and dealing with the bad guys.
This credible friendship is a pleasure to watch, and not just because the dry-witted characters balance out each other’s rough edges. They never once turn on each other in stereotypical girl-on-girl bickering. True, they do reveal each other’s deep-down shameful romance secrets, but that’s only because they’re bound in ropes, and a ruthless Euro female ex-Olympian gymnast is threatening to kill them using back flips. (Seriously, you have to be there.) Can’t wait to see what else these two can do with their comedy guns blazing.
The Spy Who Dumped Me Opens in theaters on Friday, August 3
Also published on Medium.