Never, ever underestimate Kate McKinnon. Flying on the fumes of her own damn-near-infallible notion of what’s funny, the Emmy winning SNL veteran is a joy to watch. Her new movie, The Spy Who Dumped Me, is not. Though McKinnon is one half of a saucy buddy act with costar Mila Kunis — with the Family Guy star playing it straight with no loss of appeal — the script that director Susanna Fogel (Life Partners) wrote with David Iserson basically leaves its two stars flailing. Melissa McCarthy fared much better with this kind of Jane Bond nonsense in Paul Feig’s 2015 winner Spy. Sadly, this comedy gets tied up in the knots of an espionage plot that’s loaded with D.O.A. jokes galore.
McKinnon plays Morgan Freeman (there’s a joke in that name — wait for it), an L.A. loose cannon who’ll do anything to cheer up her best friend, Audrey (Kunis). Her cashier pal has just been dumped by her boyfriend, Drew (Justin Theroux) on her birthday and via text yet; she thinks he works for NPR. Guess again: He’s a cutthroat spy for the CIA, which Fogel shows us in an action prelude that looks like Jason Bourne leftovers. Now Drew is in a crisis. He needs Audrey to go through his things and find something that looks like a junk-store trophy, and then deliver it to his contact in Vienna. Is there a flash drive hidden in that trophy? Is there any recent spy film that doesn’t include that device?
With Drew presumably dead after a brutal encounter in Vilnius, Lithuania, Audrey and Morgan jet off to Vienna where hijinks ensue for these newbie femme anything-but-fatales. Fellow agents, Sebastian (Outlander hottie Sam Heughan) and Patel (Hasan Minhaj) stay on their trail as the women go on the run, hitting hot spots in Eastern Europe as countless villains try to off them. A Russian gymnast/assassin, icily played by Ivanna Sakhno, shows them no mercy; neither do Morgan’s go-fuck-yourself retorts. Later, while girl-crushing on a chillingly cool MI6 officer (Gillian Anderson), McKinnon’s character deadpans, “I have so much respect for you that it’s circled around to objectification.” In her hands, it’s a priceless line — and her phone calls home to her patents, played by Paul Reiser and Jane Curtin, aren’t bad either.
But these are scraps in a movie that spends way too much time on car chases, shootouts, knife fights and R-rated violence that doesn’t square with the film’s comic agenda. Light-hearted is the sweet spot for this would-be romp, yet the filmmakers keep trapping its stars in stunts that don’t play to their strengths and the dead weight that McKinnon has to lift in this lumbering spy farce would sink a lesser talent. She is undeniably a livewire. The Spy Who Dumped Me is just another missed opportunity to capitalize on that.