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'The Spy Who Dumped Me': Killing for Laughs

Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis get silly (and grisly) in a 'Bourne' parody

Rating: R

Run time: 1 hour 57 minutes

Stars: Jane Curtin, Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Paul Reiser 

Director: Susanna Fogel

The Spy Who Dumped Me was pitched as Bridesmaids meets Bourne Identity, and even though it sputters a bit, this action-adventure/comedy combo mostly delivers on that promise. Credit the excellent chemistry of Mila Kunis as Audrey, a self-doubting grocery clerk whose boyfriend with an NPR show about jazz and economics (Justin Theroux) dumps her on her 30th birthday — by text! — and Kate McKinnon as Morgan, the inadvisably overconfident best friend who suggests that they burn all his stuff while he’s away.

Morgan, Audrey and Drew holding guns in a scene from

Hopper Stone/Lionsgate Entertainment

Things get interesting when Morgan, played by Kate McKinnon, (left) and Audrey (Mila Kunis) find out who Drew (Justin Theroux) really is.

Turns out, they got him all wrong. He’s really a spy, assassinating a relentless parade of attempted assassins while Audrey is at an arcade blowing away bad guys onscreen. She’s a deadeye shot, so when her ex reappears and explains that every spy and bad guy in Europe is after his thumb drive — the only thing they didn’t burn — Morgan eggs Audrey on. So they jet to Vienna, Prague and Paris (evidently rebuilt after Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout visit) to assassinate some assassins and protect that thumb drive. Even if they have to chop off a thumb or two and keep it in a twist-to-open lipstick container.

“Women can be terrorists, too,” says McKinnon, with eyes wider and more out of control than they are on Saturday Night Live, on which she’s the over-the-top standout. “We can do anything we put our minds to!” That’s doubtless what director Susanna Fogel would say to the many viewers who will object to the violence of this comedy, which is just as grisly, bone-crunching and cartoonishly non-upsetting as any action film dominated by macho men. When Gillian Anderson, who turns 50 on Aug. 9, shows up as a fiercely icy, utterly un-girly spy, McKinnon showers her with feminist cheers: “A real-life Judi Dench! You’re the Beyoncé of the government! I have so much respect for you that it’s circled around to objectification.” 

The hardy-har-har gags alternating with action horror is kind of like Pineapple Express, but it really is more jarring when the main plot is girl-crush relationship comedy. Aha, Fogel would say, so even a man gets my movie. It’s supposed to be jarring. After you get used to it, the mayhem no longer fazes you, and the romp — with a spy vs. spy plot only slightly sillier than all such movies — plays like Romy and Michele’s Mission Implausible. Only instead of folding sweaters, they pile up corpses.

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The back-and-forth banter is often good, especially when they’re forced to save their lives by telling each other's deepest secrets as fast as they can. Sam Heughan and Hasan Minhaj are funny as a couple of bickering MI6 agents (one of whom cannot go one minute without telling a new acquaintance he went to Harvard), and the film would be better if the grownups got more scenes: Paul Reiser, 61, and Jane Curtin, 70, as the parents McKinnon overshares with, and Fred Melamed, 62, as the suave older man who asks Morgan, “Are you into Balzac?” McKinnon has the perfect deflating riposte.

The movie is at least 20 minutes too long, especially at the end, and the skit-like scenes are hit and miss, sometimes starting with a promising premise (they seize a getaway car but find they can’t drive a clutch; Morgan battles a gymnast assassin in a Cirque du Soleil extravaganza) and then letting the air leak out until it’s … over. Like on SNL. But a lot of the gags land, rooted in the female equivalent of bromance, and the action is mostly serviceable.

It's not as good as Melissa McCarthy doing much the same thing terrifically in Spy. But until Spy 2, it’ll do.

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