Saturday, August 11, 2018

Live And Let Laugh

Year: 2018
Director: Susanna Fogel
Cast: Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux
Run Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

The wacky female-led spy comedy sub-subgenre has already reached its peak with the first and previously only entry: Paul Feig's Spy, one of my favorite films of 2015. There was no way The Spy Who Dumped Me could have matched the galvanizing comic energy of that film, but let's not pit movies starring women against each other. Give me a Kate McKinnon, a female director, and a bucket of hot dudes, and I'm first in line for your movie no matter what.

Plus, if you put that Kate McKinnon in suspenders, I'm already 30% more invested.

In The Spy Who Dumped Me, Audrey (Mila Kunis) is devastated when her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) breaks up with her via text message, but she's even more devastated when she finds out that he was secretly a CIA agent and now she's involved in a major international imbroglio with her roommate Morgan (Kate McKinnon). The two besties embark on a globetrotting (but mostly continental Europe-trotting) adventure and attempt to work their way through a heaping helping of spy movie scenarios without actually having any clue what they're doing.

Along the way, the match wits with MI-6 agents Sebastian (Sam Heughan) and Duffer (Hasan Minhaj), Eastern European torture gymnast Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno), and plenty of undercover agents so thick on the ground you can't trust anybody.

TripAdvisor is definitely going to hear about this one.

Look, The Spy Who Dumped Me is an August release, given the slot for movies that are budgeted high enough to be summer releases but don't inspire studio confidence enough to get the actual good release weekends. It was never going to set the world on fire, and it doesn't. But it's more than good enough to be an enjoyable couple hours in the air conditioning (which is extra helpful in Southern California, considering the state is ablaze again and the heat was brushing 90 last week - come to think of it, maybe The Spy Who Dumped Me IS setting the world on fire).

Unfortunately, it's also one of those comedy movies where the review is gonna be much shorter than anticipated, because there's absolutely nothing to dig into. You slide right off the surface of The Spy Who Dumped Me because it's impenetrably bland. It's really only funny on the strength of the charisma of its stars rather than any actual jokes it attempts to make. It's not un-funny I suppose, but there's not a single joke that pushes the envelope, to the point that even its obligatory single male nudity gag feels less like a shock and more like one tick in a box on your R-rated comedy bingo card.

But those stars sure are worth spending time with. Mila Kunis is easy to like in anything she does (she's not easy to love, but there's only so much one can ask for in an August comedy), and Kate McKinnon is a comedy firecracker that brings sparks of joy to any role. Unfortunately this particular role is a rather shallow one who doesn't get much emotional life beyond "friends with Mila Kunis," and never feels truly connected to the stakes of the narrative. But McKinnon playing a role is always 150% more interesting than anybody else playing it, and she pulls out some inimitable line readings that would be almost impossible to express on the page.

As I've been saying since Ghostbusters, Kate is comic anarchy, and the movies she finds herself in could sure use a bit of that.

Actually The Spy Who Dumped Me doesn't seem to have the time to devote to any character dynamic. Even the titular spy doesn't get enough screentime to establish what their relationship was like and why she might be so devastated by its loss and the revelation that key aspects of it were all a lie. WE literally see or hear about two days of their relationship: the first and the last. It's not enough for us to care one speck about the couple, and it really undermines an emotional sequence late in the film like a gopher in a golf course.

But one thing I will say about this particular spy comedy is that there really are life-and-death stakes, and many many people meet a grisly, violent end. That's not to say that it's gruesome or gory or anything, but it does commit to its premise, and that is a very good thing. In the third act, there's even a wonderful gross-out gag with a dead body that belies what a sterling dark comedy this could have been if it wasn't more committed to being a buddy adventure movie.

However, it's not like that buddy adventure movie is the worst. It's not a movie I think I'd particularly recommend to anybody, but it's not a toxic waste of time like a lot of the stuff that'll be piling up in theaters this August, so why not give it a shot if you've already seen all the littler releases that you should prioritize like Eigth Grade or BlacKkKlansman.

TL;DR: The Spy Who Dumped Me is a totally fine way to escape from the summer sun, if not a particularly awe-inspiring effort.
Rating: 6/10
Word Count: 888

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