One of the happiest surprises — to me, at least — of 2016’s Bad Moms was the discovery of Mila Kunis as a gifted big-screen comedienne. In that film, she deftly juggled the demands of being a harried wife and mother with the raunchy joys of being a girls-just-want-to-have-fun cut-up letting loose. So you’d think that partnering her with Saturday Night Live’s resident wild card, Kate McKinnon, in a wrong-man espionage satire would be a slam dunk. Guess again. The new comedy, The Spy Who Dumped Me, is a mirthless, dead-on-arrival dud.
Kunis plays Audrey, a cashier at a Los Angeles organic market nursing a bad break-up from her dashingly mysterious ex Drew (Justin Theroux). Unbeknownst to her, Drew is a globe-trotting CIA operative whose latest mission puts the unwitting Audrey in the crosshairs of a bunch of Eastern-bloc assassins. Before you can say “Atomic Blonde,” Audrey’s on the run with her daffy, ride-or-die best friend Morgan (McKinnon), tapping into their inner Jane Bonds. It’s a sign of just how unfunny and undercooked director Susanna Fogel and co-writer David Iserson’s limp screenplay is that McKinnon’s Morgan’s last name is Freeman — and can’t milk one decent gag out of it.
The blueprint for a comedy like this is, of course, Melissa McCarthy’s hilarious Spy. But The Spy Who Dumped Me doesn’t possess either that film’s winking self-awareness, laughing-gas edge, or anarchic wit. It just feebly hopscotches from one European locale to the next ignoring every comic possibility that presents itself. Kunis has an undeniably likable screen presence. Her exasperation and wide, dark eyes elicit instant empathy. But she’s hamstrung playing the straight-woman foil to McKinnon’s wildly over-the-top lunacy. The SNL star is not so much acting in the film as idling while she waits for the next opening in the script to uncork a kooky non sequitur. A little of this goes a long way.
If your expectations are low enough – like around your ankles – it’s possible to laugh at a couple of the film’s tossed-off punch lines and cartoony action sequences and feel like you got your money’s worth. But if being excessively charitable isn’t your thing, then The Spy Who Dumped Me just feels like a big eye-rolling swing and a miss. C-