This might have been a stylish little spy movie. Not a lot of expense has been spared in flying cast and crew around the usual photogenic precincts of Europe (Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam, Prague), and some of the action stuff—especially a frantic shootout in a Viennese café—is clearly the work of top-dollar professionals.
But The Spy Who Dumped Me isn't a spy movie—not really. There's no charismatic secret-agentry on display, and no likable lunatic villainy, either. And the plot, involving yet another world threat from yet another hazy terrorist organization, is uninteresting even by genre standards.
All of which is supposed to be okay, I guess, because this isn't a straight-up spy flick—it's a female-fronted spy comedy. Okay. But then shouldn't it be funny—or at least funnier than what we have here? Only three years have passed since Melissa McCarthy and writer-director Paul Feig knocked this concept out of the park with Spy, a movie that was largely hilarious and also paid stylish tribute to the Bond films that inspired it. That movie raised the spy-comedy bar way high, but apparently not everyone got the memo.
The central problem here is that the two leads, Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, never mesh. There are times when they don't even seem to be in the same movie. Kunis plays Audrey, a grocery cashier whose boyfriend, an NPR podcaster named Drew (Justin Theroux), has just dumped her by text. What Audrey doesn't know is that the text was sent from Lithuania, where Drew was plying his real trade of undercover CIA agent. When Audrey next sees Drew—in bullet-riddled circumstances—he tells her that her life is in danger and that she must take his fantasy-baseball trophy (and the dim joke that goes with it) and fly to Vienna and offload it onto somebody called Vern.
This is where McKinnon comes chattering in. Her character, Morgan (last name Freeman, comedy payoff zero), is timid Audrey's best friend, and urges her to seize this opportunity for adventure. "You wanna die never having been to Europe?" Morgan asks. "Or do you wanna go to Europe and die, having been to Europe?" (This is a pretty good joke. There's also another one.) Naturally Morgan volunteers to ride shotgun.
In short order, Audrey and Morgan become involved with a pair of CIA agents named Sebastian (Sam Heughan) and Duffer (Hasan Minhaj), who are eager to lay hands on Drew's McGuffin before the bad guys get it. Also circling about are a shadowy Prague contact called Roger (masterfully smarmy Fred Melamed) and a scary-looking fashion model/assassin named Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno). A CIA director played by Gillian Anderson also drops by from time to time, although for no real reason beyond enabling McKinnon to call her "the Beyoncé of government." I love McKinnon, but she's over-equipped with one-liners here, and it's a glaring problem. Whenever there's a lull in the attempted zaniness, you know she's going unleash some kooky non sequitur, and then she does, and then you give a sigh of amusement and wait for her to do it again. It's a comic strategy of diminishing returns, and it tends to leave Kunis looking sidelined. (Neither actress is well-served by the poopy gags, and the movie itself is undermined by its determination to blend comedy with bloody, limb-severing violence.)
Director Susanna Fogel (Life Partners) stages a number of full-tilt action sequences as the story lurches along—a screeching multi-motorcycle chase, the aforementioned café shootout—but they're robbed of excitement by flabby editing. (If you're going to give us what may be the world's first face-down-in-a-bubbling-fondue-pot shot, please give it to us cleanly framed.) Most of the action in this movie is little more than frenzy, and what laughs there are get lost in it.