The Spy Who Dumped Me Review: Bad Name, Good Movie
The Spy Who Dumped Me review: Director Susanna Fogel brings a new twist to a pair of familiar genres in a film that is going to be oddly divisive.
In what is probably going to be one of the weirder debates in a year of weird debates, The Spy Who Dumped Me is the type of film that doesn’t really exist in the middle ground. People are either going to wholeheartedly embrace the film and its humor, maybe even going so far as to ensure its place as a cult favorite, or they’ll think it’s dumb.
Sure, there will be a few stragglers that don’t have strong opinions on it either way, but I’m making a point here, dammit. Don’t bother me with reasonableness.
For my part, I fall very much into the “destined for cult classic” camp. And it’s a fun camp, where people hang out and enjoy things. The other camp is sad and filled with things like people saying “it’s predictable” and “filled with tropes.” That isn’t necessarily incorrect, but it’s not much fun either. And based on early review scores, there are plenty of critics in that second camp. Tis a silly place.
To be sure, there are flaws in The Spy That Dumped Me, beginning with the silly name and working its way down from there. But the relationship between Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, the raunchy humor, and the action all help elevate it beyond where it could be.
In some ways, it’s a predictable story with a slight twist. After being dumped by Drew (Justin Theroux), her boyfriend of a year, Audrey (Kunis) does what most of us would do. She gets drunk with her BFF Morgan (McKinnon) and decides to burn his stuff. When he turns up and drops Audrey right in the middle of a spy thriller, she and Morgan are forced to head to Europe to complete a mysterious mission.
Along the way they find themselves in car chases with meth heads, fighting off bizarre assassins that like gymnastics just a little too much, and plenty of people with unclear motives – including spies like Sebastien (Sam Heughan) and Duffer (Hasan Minhaj), who may or may not want them dead.
There are plenty of twists and turns that are predictable enough that they aren’t really all that twisty or turny, but that allows the story to have some fun with the traditional spy tropes. You have things like shootouts and clandestine data drops for example, but they end with the duo walking away and cracking jokes.
Spy doesn’t get bogged down in the details. It flies from scene to scene and never goes too far down any one rabbit hole. Plot issues are introduced and resolved just as quickly, making it a spoof of the spy genre wrapped in a shell of an over-the-top action movie. Sometimes it has trouble deciding which it is, but those moments are few and far between. Usually, the two work well together and even inform each other.
The R-rating is going to be divisive, but that’s always the case with R-rated comedies. If you go into this movie and you aren’t expecting the odd shock-based nudity and a touch of Deadpool-style violence, you haven’t been following the course of R-rated comedies. There will be some people that are offended, because of course there will be. If you are in that group, the good news is Christopher Robin comes out this week too.
At its core though, the film is on the shoulders of Kunis and McKinnon. McKinnon is one really smart film away from a true breakthrough to solo leading roles, and until then she plays an excellent outrageous friend, while Kunis is constantly teetering on the fence of superstardom. Together they play off each other well, and their interactions – both scripted and through things like their mannerisms – work well together. They don’t rely on each other to succeed, but they complement each other and it’s more than just a wacky friend playing off the more earnest character, they both have some great, smart moments. It all just really works well together, and it’s a nice flipping of the script to see a pair of strong, comedic female leads carry a spy movie with ease.
Heughan and Theroux are both real pretty too, so there’s that.
But like with most raunchy movies that aren’t afraid to drop in a shot of a testicle or two, it will split people. There’s also the name – a reference to the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. It just gives too much credit to the spy, who is relatively small part of the film. It just seems like a dumb pun in a movie that generally avoids the lowest hanging fruit. It’s a minor complaint, and may not have come from director and co-writer Susanna Fogel.
The studio behind The Spy Who Dumped Me doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. The marketing has been almost nonexistent, and what there is has been contradictory. Lionsgate initially said it wanted to push back the release date because the initial screenings were so good that they wanted to hold it to a time that was more traditionally friendly to comedies. But they then rewarded that faith with none presence. And what little there was played up the action over the comedy. The trailer is terrible too, so best to just avoid it.
The only chance this film has is word of mouth, and that’s a tough spot for any film to be in – maybe doubly so for The Spy Who Dumped Me. It is starting from a step behind because of the poor marketing, and another step back because of the divisive nature of the R-rated humor. Toss in a few asshats that don’t like female-led movies and it’s going to be a tough hole to dig out of.
None of that is the fault of the film itself though. The Spy Who Dumped Me probably won’t earn a sequel (which is too bad given where it could go later on), so enjoy what there is while you can.
The Spy Who Dumped Me Review Conclusion
The less you know about this movie going in, the better – and not because it is packed with surprises (it isn’t). The less you know, the less you’ll have to overcome unfair preconceived notions created by bad marketing.
Putting that aside, the film is laugh out loud funny. Kunis and McKinnon work well together and separately, and the pacing helps to keep things moving at a brisk pace. It never dwells on a joke, but it doesn’t miss an opportunity either. The Spy Who Dumped Me may not dominate at the box office, but if there’s any justice, it will have a long life as a cult film.
The Spy Who Loved Me is rated R with a running time of 117 minutes.