In 2018, is it even possible to make a raucous spy caper feel fresh and exciting? Or has Hollywood simply run out of ideas and is looking to dust off a tired buddy cop formula for an easy turnaround? In the case of The Spy Who Dumped Me, it would appear that you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks. While it certainly doesn’t reinvent the comedic wheel, this slapstick action flick delivers exactly what it promises on the box: a crazed summer romp filled with enticing, if fleeting, entertainment.
Shortly after receiving a vague and abrupt break-up text, capricious cashier Audrey (Mila Kunis) finds out that her aloof beau (Justin Theroux) is actually an undercover government agent. It isn’t long before she – along with her lifelong bestie Morgan (Kate McKinnon) – finds herself entangled deep in a web of international conspiracy, fleeing across Europe with trained assassins hot on their trail. Along the way, Audrey and Morgan meet a host of professional spies (Sam Heughan, Gillian Anderson, Hasan Minhaj), but who can they trust?
“…entangled deep in a web of international conspiracy, fleeing across Europe with trained assassins hot on their trail.”
By all accounts, Kate McKinnon should be a massive movie star, as she steals every moment of Saturday Night Live she’s thrust onscreen. However, none of her film efforts prior to The Spy Who Dumped Me have found a gratifying way of fostering her chaotic comedic mastery. Fortunately, director Susanna Fogel (Life Partners) addresses the issue head-on, allowing enough breathing room for McKinnon to blossom and expand to fill the corners of the already spirited screenplay (co-written by Fogel and television writer David Iserson). As a result, the playful energy of the film comes alive in delightfully amusing ways, as McKinnon and Kunis find new ways to riff on their Odd Couple pairing. The leads have impeccable chemistry, which is largely the reason why Spy is the rare comedy that’s able to continuously milk creative mileage out of scatological humor.
“…work wonders in subverting genre expectations, but not in the hokey, pandering way that female-led blockbusters so often settle for.”
The women both in front of and behind the camera work wonders in subverting genre expectations, but not in the hokey, pandering way that female-led blockbusters so often settle for. Whether they are showering each other with Leslie Knope style affirmational pep talks or fawning over women in leadership, these would-be spies are displaying a feminine energy that is just as organic as it is potent. In a pivotal moment, our heroes are captured, withstanding brutal torture, and rather than cave under pressure or beg for their lives, we are given resounding retaliation from Kate McKinnon: “Please go fuck yourself.” Better still, none of the characters is asked to resort to using their sexuality as a weapon; instead, Audrey and Morgan save the day through their resilience, their know-how, and just a skosh of blind luck, much the way 007 does.
With surprisingly thrilling action sequences from a farce, a gaggle of inspired cameos, and a vast array of location porn – our heroes are galavanting around some of the world’s most beloved cities, from Paris to Prague – The Spy Who Dumped Me offers viewers everything they could want from a summer popcorn flick. Sure, it overstays its welcome and it throws in a few too many poop jokes, but Fogel’s broad comedy does precisely what it advertises. In a summer of filled with money-hungry sequels and half-hearted remakes, it comes as a breath of fresh air to witness a wide release that still knows how to have fun with itself.
The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018) Directed by Susanna Fogel. Written By Susanna Fogel, David Iserson. Starring Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan, Hasan Minhaj, Gillian Anderson, Ivanna Sakhno, Fred Melamed, Kev Adams, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Jane Curtin, Paul Reiser.
7 out of 10