The title of Susanna Fogel’s second feature may be a play on James Bond, but unlike The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), the women of the story aren’t simply playthings – they’re at the forefront. The Spy Who Dumped Me is next on the growing list of female spy movies, and while it’s a fun summer popcorn movie, it doesn’t transcend the genre’s typical conventions.
The film follows best friends Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon) in the aftermath of discovering that Audrey’s ex, Drew (Justin Theroux), is a spy for the CIA. They soon find themselves sucked into an international espionage adventure that takes them from their quiet lives in Los Angeles to running for their lives around Europe. At its core, the film is about the strength of women and female friendships, but the buddy comedy fails to find the right balance of action to complement the film’s light-hearted vibe.
When it comes to spy comedies, Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy got things rolling with Spy (2015). Just like Audrey and Morgan, McCarthy’s Susan is also thrown into a mission without any experience whatsoever. But unlike Fogel’s new venture, Spy finds the perfect blend of comedy and spy action, concentrating more on the comedy while still providing enough thrills for the action enthusiasts. Feig’s genius in being able to blend genres so cohesively doesn’t mean that Fogel is a bad director. It’s quite the opposite. She proves she’s able to direct action, but it’s clear comedy was left in the backseat with the overtly graphic nature of the action calling shotgun. While the action is well choreographed and entertaining, with car chases and fight scenes (even a cool fight scene on a trapeze) interspersed throughout, the creators were left unable to balance action and violence, reaching a level of violent carnage that clashes with the comedic efforts of the cast creating a tonal mélange.
The plot itself is simple and runs thin, and for film buff standards it’s generic. The film’s not driving to create something new and fresh, but something solid – and they almost achieve it. Audrey and Morgan are thrown into this conspiracy when Drew instructs them to deliver a package to Vienna, and in their quest to do so, the story becomes convoluted. The good guys and bad guys become indistinguishable, and what the package contains is never explicitly explained. But somehow, you barely even notice the plot holes because the leading ladies are just that good.
Kunis and McKinnon drive the film and the chemistry between them is undeniable. The dynamic duo have proved their comedic chops over the years – Kunis in Bad Moms and McKinnon on SNL – and while many of the script’s jokes fall flat amongst the action, the two still manage to get some laughs out of the audience. And McKinnon, as always, steals every scene she’s in. Theroux’s titular spy, Drew, thinks that McKinnon’s character is “a little too much,” but you can never get too much of her dynamic personality and goofiness – it makes the movie.
Along with Theroux, the secondary cast includes MI6 agents played by The Daily Show‘s Hasan Minhaj and Outlander’s Sam Heughan, and while they play their parts well, they’re overshadowed by Gillian Anderson and her Big Dick Energy. Her icy MI6 boss character in the same scene as Kate McKinnon is every gay’s dream. After all the years that McKinnon spent professing her love for the actress, it’s about time they share the screen together.
Fogel’s idea for The Spy Who Dumped Me is incredibly smart, but where she shines in directing, she lacks in writing. But as summer popcorn movies go, it’s as entertaining as any. Fogel gives the gays everything they want with Anderson/McKinnon, but if there’s any hope for female spies amongst the decades of male-centric stories, it needs to be modern, original, and with the perfect blend of comedic and physical jabs.