In The Spy Who Dumped Me, Mila Kunis plays Audrey, a woman who believes her ex-boyfriend works for NPR. But that changes one day when he shows up at her place trailed by an army of assassins.
No podcast is that bad, so what gives?
Turns out the guy (Justin Theroux) is a government agent in possession of a valuable item, and after the movie's noisy and violent prologue, it falls to Audrey to take it to Vienna, and deliver it to safe hands.
What follows is a bawdy, bloody but only sporadically funny spy spoof and buddy comedy that pairs Kunis with Kate McKinnon, playing Audrey's hyper-protective and just plain hyper best friend, Morgan.
Writer-director Susanna Fogel has given her leads a reasonable supply of one-liners and wisecracks, but she hasn't really given them characters to play. All we really know about Audrey at the outset of The Spy Who Dumped Me is that she's a supermarket cashier at a place modeled on Trader Joe's (she's still wearing her Hawaiian shirt and khakis when she arrives in Vienna), and even that much is hard to believe.
McKinnon's Morgan is a collection of off-the-wall antics and quirks, and while some of them suit the SNL comic's unpredictable energy, they don't add up to a person.
The two leads spend most of the movie in a fruitless search for their characters, and looking for some kind of chemistry, which remains elusive throughout. (The deficiencies of The Spy Who Dumped Me are also heightened by the fact that we've seen similar movies done so well, and so recently — Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in The Heat, and McCarthy in Spy).
Fogel also whiffs on would-be romance between recently dumped Audrey and the handsome British agent (Sam Heughan) who follows the duo from Vienna to Prague to Paris and then to Berlin. (The movie is expensive-looking, and appears to have been shot on location.)
The Spy Who Dumped Me has good supporting talent — Fred Melamed, also Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser as Morgan's parents (the Freemans!), although Reiser is stuck with a gag about why he can't understand the workings of the TV remote. Most of the ancillary laughs go to Hasan Minhaj, who plays a CIA agent who can't get through a sentence without mentioning that he went to Harvard.
The movie's R-rated violence is sometimes jarring in the context of the breezy comic tone Fogel wants to establish, but at the same time the director shows a real talent for action — some of the stuff is as good and as lucid and efficient as the recent Mission: Impossible (the motorcycle stunts are almost duplicates), and most are better than Skyscraper.
The blend of action and comedy is best expressed in an amusing role for Ivanna Sakhno as an Eastern bloc gymnast-turned-model-turned-assassin who's assigned to kill the two women, and ultimately faces off with McKinnon during a Cirque du Soleil high trapeze battle.
McKinnon lands safely, even if most the jokes do not.