By Liam Lacey
Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon play best friends embroiled in a European espionage adventure in The Spy Who Dumped Me, a relentless, overly-antic action-comedy in the accidental-agent genre that gave us Melissa McCarthy’s Spy.
The movie opens in Vilnius, Lithuania in a scene with Justin Theroux, involved in a grainy handheld-camera Bourne-style shoot-out escapade. At the same moment in Los Angeles, Audrey (Kunis), an underachieving, mopey cashier, is at a theme restaurant suffering through her 30th birthday, despite the irrepressible enthusiasm of her friend, unemployed actress, Morgan (McKinnon).
Audrey has just been dumped, via text, by her boyfriend, Drew (Theroux) who she thought was an NPR podcaster. He is, in fact, the under-cover CIA agent of the opening sequence, and he returns to Los Angeles long enough to explain himself before being knocked out of commission during a shoot-out in Audrey’s apartment.
Shortly after, Audrey and Morgan find themselves on a mission to deliver a "fantasy football" trophy to a contact in Vienna the next day. From there-on, two women are in the midst of a city-hopping European espionage thriller, donning disguises, getting chased by a tenacious Russian model/gymnast/assassin (Ivanna Sakhno) and criss-crossing paths with squabbling agents - a handsome Englishman named Sebastian (Sam Heughan) and his supercilious American partner, (Hasan Minhaj).
All the running and shooting, like the tourist backdrops of Paris and Vienna, are essentially scenery for Saturday Night Live’s break-out star, McKinnon, to chew. At one point, in flashback, Drew tells Morgan she’s “a bit much” which might serve as a capsule review for the movie.
Between the Cockney accent, the diarrhea jokes and an intervention in a Cirque du Soleil aerial act, the pop-eyed McKinnon goes well beyond her usual SNL sarcastic vocal fry in trying to wring laughs from the stereotypical Bond-style setups. While director and co-writer, Susanna Fogel’s theme is, ostensibly, the power of female friendships, McKinnon mostly performs as though she’s on her own. It doesn’t help that the comedy is sandwiched between numbingly violent and repetitive action scenes that leave bodies strewn across the screen.
There are moments when McKinnon dials it down enough to interact with other characters, including an amusing bit when she displays a boisterous crush on a sleekly frosty MI6 boss (Gillian Anderson).
There’s also some charm in her unfiltered telephone conversations with her square but adoring suburban parents (Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser). Still, the movie that can contain McKinnon, or the movie where she’s willing to be contained, has yet to be made.
The Spy Who Dumped Me. Directed by Susanna Fogel. Written by Susanna Fogel and David Iserson. Starring: Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan, Gillian Anderson, Ivanna Sakhno and Jane Curtain, Paul Reiser. The Spy Who Dumped Me shows at the Varsity Cinemas, Imagine Market Square, Cineplex Yonge-Dundas, SilverCity Yonge-Eglinton and Silvercity Yorkdale.