The two main characters in The Spy Who Dumped Me are ordinary women who get caught up in international espionage and turn out to be — what are the odds? — pretty good at it. They shoot villains with relative ease and accuracy, instinctively hide flash drives in their privates, pull switcheroos as if native-born to the practice, and generally make being a spy seem pretty intuitive … all while screaming frantically about how this is SO DANGEROUS and WE’RE GOING TO DIE and WE’RE IN OVER OUR HEADS, AAHHHH!
This type of disposable formula action comedy usually has men in the leading roles, but “The Spy Who Dumped Me” (directed by Susanna Fogel, written by Fogel and David Iserson) proves that mediocrity is not bound by gender. Newly single Audrey (Mila Kunis) discovers that her ex-boyfriend, Drew (Justin Theroux), is a CIA agent when two other spies — CIA’s Duffer (Hasan Minhaj) and MI6’s Sebastian (Sam Heughan) — show up to ask questions about his whereabouts. Drew himself appears later and gives Audrey a package to deliver in Vienna, which she and her kooky-with-a-capital-K best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) undertake to accomplish by themselves, with Duffer and Sebastian as well as various bad guys in pursuit.
The action scenes are surprisingly good (and surprisingly violent), serving a story that would be passable in a straightforward spy thriller. And the comedy has its moments, with Mila Kunis making a good straight-man for Kate McKinnon’s lunacy. But the film leans too heavily on McKinnon to provide levity without always giving her much to work with — often she just spouts non sequiturs in the hopes that randomness will prove funny (which it sometimes does!) — and the screenplay uses profanity like a kid who just learned how. A head-scratching sequence involving Edward Snowden (played by Tom Stourton) is so broad it belongs in a Naked Gun-style spoof; in another scene, Audrey and Morgan withstand torture. The mixture of farce, slapstick, and realism is uncomfortable.
And then there’s the fact that Audrey, especially, takes to espionage like Ethan Hunt takes to clinging to the bottoms of helicopters. It’s not that her skills are implausible (though they are); it’s that being competent takes the humor out of an “in over their heads” scenario and makes the characters less relatable than if they used their ordinary, non-spy talents to win the day. If only there were a better spy movie in theaters right now…