Sometimes Hollywood just doesn’t know what to do with talent, even when the answer is right under its immaculately powdered corporate nose. Kate McKinnon was by far and away the best thing in the Ghostbusters re-boot two years ago but, since then, she’s been pigeonholed in supporting roles or double acts, with a bit of voice acting thrown in. A film of her own is way overdue.
Once again, she’s the stand-out turn in The Spy Who Dumped Me, where she partners Mila Kunis on a spy romp that tours the capitals of Europe and bears little or no relation to Austin Powers, despite the title. Kunis’s attractive but mysterious boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) dumps her by text – the bounder! – disappears and then just as mysteriously returns. It turns out he’s a spy with a very important secret which he entrusts to her and that sends both her and eccentric BFF McKinnon off on their trek around Europe, with a mish-mash of agents of various persuasions on their collective tail. It includes MI6, headed by “a real live Judi Dench”, to use McKinnon’s words.
So we’re back on buddy territory but, despite that title, there’s not a sniff of the 007 parody that you might expect. Instead, it’s the usual comedy/action mix, but with an emphasis on bone crunching violence that comes as a surprise and points towards director Susanna Fogel (read our interview here) not being able to make up her mind what she wants the film to be. Is it out-and-out comedy or an action flick? In truth, it turns out to be neither, falling down the black hole in the middle and even its efforts to dig deeper into the more meaningful subject of female friendship are lacking.
The one thing Fogel clearly understands is how to get the best out of McKinnon. Her verbal and physical comedic talents steal the show and make it blindingly obvious that she’s worthy of a stand-alone movie in her own right. Everybody else in this caper is in her shadow to a greater or lesser extent. Kunis has little to do other than look good and bemoan her love life, while Theroux as her on-off boyfriend and Outlander’s Sam Heughan are both so wooden you can only assume that her interest in them is purely physical. It’s hardly a stretch for Agent Scully herself, Gillian Anderson, to drip icicles as the head of MI6: she can do that with one hand tied behind her back and there are times when it feels like she’s doing exactly that.
The script has enough laughs – including, of all things, a running gag about Edward Snowden – to amuse and entertain, but it doesn’t have the bite to turn the film into the parody you suspect was the original intention. The car chases, shoot-outs and action sequences in general are well staged but, when all’s said and done, this is little more than a routine buddy movie. The big thing in its favour is McKinnon and, without her, this movie would definitely be dumped.
Freda Cooper |
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Comedy, Action | 15 | UK, 22 August (2018) | Lionsgate | Dir. Susanna Fogel| Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan, Gillian Anderson.