I have previously suggested that Kate McKinnon is a national treasure and that it is only a matter of time before the country, as a whole, recognizes as much (perhaps others have said this too, but I know that I have). McKinnon is a comedic genius, able to make the audience laugh not just through her words, but through facial expressions as well. What’s more, she can do all of this while staying in character – the laughs generated always feel true to the person she is portraying.
Happily, I can report that all of this remains true in McKinnon’s latest film, “The Spy who Dumped me,” in which she appears opposite another wonderfully funny person, Mila Kunis. The two leads are directed by Susanna Fogel (with a script from Fogel & David Iserson) in what amounts to a nearly perfect action comedy and a wonderful spin on spy spoofs.
“The Spy who Dumped me” finds Audrey (Kunis) recently dumped (not a spoiler, the title gives this away) by her boyfriend, Drew (Justin Theroux), and celebrating her birthday alongside Morgan (McKinnon). Very quickly, Audrey and Morgan learn that Drew is a spy and the women are drawn into a tangled mess that (they think) only they can unravel. This requires them to travel around Europe as a multitude of people attempt to kill them in interesting ways.
What Fogel and the cast (which also includes Sam Heughan, Hasan Minhaj, Gillian Anderson, and Ivanna Sakhno) hit perfectly are the tonal shifts between the two genres. That is, there are action scenes which play out in perfectly straight fashion, only for the film to almost immediately shift gears to something funny, and to make that shift without giving the audience whiplash. Even better, the “The Spy who Dumped me” doesn’t feel like it sacrifices anything in either the comedy or the action department. There are some truly shocking moments in fight sequences, a great chase, and some huge laughs.
Kunis and McKinnon exhibit a great back and forth here, offering up a beautiful example of what close friends mean to one another and how they can elevate each other. Moments when one of their characters offers up insights about the other character are some of the best in the film and highlight the script and its handling.
There are, undoubtedly, some scenes where things lag a little, but they are few and far between. Fogel keeps the audience guessing as to whom the women should believe, and even when things slow down, the question (or something else) keeps popping up. Morgan and Audrey are given the standard “trust no one” warning by Drew, but the film does a wonderful job working with that concept rather than simply throwing it out there as a line and having some sort of inevitable double-cross.
If anything, the biggest problem in the movie is that there are so many wonderful secondary and tertiary characters whom deserve more screen time. First and foremost amongst these is Gillian Anderson’s character. Seemingly a serious person in general, her deadpan responses to some of Morgan’s more outlandish remarks are perfect.
The plot offered up in “The Spy who Dumped me” is, of course, pure foolishness and not brilliantly explored. I am not convinced that, even if were I pressed, I could completely explain who did what to whom when and why. It is the briefest whiff of a Maguffin, but it gets things moving for Audrey and Morgan, and that is all that Kunis and McKinnon require. A movie where these two sit down and just talk for 90 minutes might be worth it, but the audience is given so much more than that.
Not a movie for the youngest set, “The Spy who Dumped me” earns its R rating, it is a great action comedy. If we are all lucky, Kunis, McKinnon, and Fogel will reunite for another go-round.
I would certainly watch it.
photo credit: Lionsgate