A middling entry in the genre of comic spy thrillers, The Spy Who Dumped Me is enlivened considerably by its unorthodox pairing of lead actresses. Mila Kunis plays spottily employed loser Audrey, while Kate McKinnon is her overly dramatic aspiring actress best friend Morgan. Audrey’s boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) broke up with her via text message and seemingly ghosted her, but he returns to her apartment in L.A. just in time to be murdered in front of her. Before he dies, Drew confesses that he’s a CIA agent and tells her to deliver a package to a guy in Vienna. Morgan goes with her for moral support and because all the spy business turns her on. Before long, the two terrified normies are dodging bullets in the capitals of Europe.
Director/co-writer Susanna Fogel previously made one film, another buddy comedy (of the gay-straight variety) called Life Partners. Nothing in that low-budget movie suggested that she could direct a large-scale action sequence, and yet the prologue with Drew fighting off killers in Lithuania turns out reasonably well. Even better is the car chase in Vienna, with Audrey and Morgan being pursued by gunmen on motorcycles and their annoying ride service driver (Kev Adams) getting into the spirit of the chase while lobbying for a five-star rating from his customers.
Where this movie comes up short is where you’d expect it to be strongest: the writing. The double-crosses by various characters make no sense, but that pales next to Fogel and co-writer David Iserson’s indistinct characterization of her two heroines. Audrey and Morgan stay BFFs throughout this thing, and we never get any sense of any points of tension in the friendship. The filmmakers want to paint Audrey as someone with a natural flair for the spy game, but she takes an awfully long time to put together that characters who are obviously villains are villains. Her romance with a British MI6 agent (Sam Heughan from TV’s Outlander) is dull, and while the plot hinges on Audrey learning how not to be such a doormat, it doesn’t feel earned. The Melissa McCarthy vehicle Spy betters this movie on just about every count.
Yet there’s no denying how splendidly the unorthodox pairing of the broad, quizzical Kunis and the dry, eccentric McKinnon works. The latter in particular seems to make every film she’s in better, and her ad-libs fly fast as Morgan spills the beans on Audrey under threat of torture (“She has sex dreams about Minions!”) or going on a tangent about her time dating Edward Snowden. (“He was really into ska music. When that whole thing blew up, I thought, ‘Why is no one mentioning the ska?’ ”) The whole movie is worth seeing just for her wordless reaction to Audrey’s revelation that a flash drive that everyone’s looking for is concealed about — or, rather, inside — her person. The Spy Who Dumped Me makes me hope to see this pairing again, in a film better suited to them.
The Spy Who Dumped Me
Starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon. Directed by Susanna Fogel. Written by Susanna Fogel and David Iserson. Rated R.