First (and, really, only): All hail Kate McKinnon. Even when she pops up in mediocre, interchangeable comedies like this one – a panicky spy romp that’s unsettlingly heavy on bone-crunching violence – the subversive ‘Saturday Night Live’ star finds a way to infuse the flow with throwaway lines that, even if you catch only a fraction of them, are dazzling. Lean into McKinnon’s irresistible sidekick Morgan and you’ll hear inappropriate phone calls ('Mom, did you get the dick pics I forwarded you?'), ex-boyfriend jabs ('He was really into ska,' she says of Edward Snowden) and a richly intimated backstory ('Remember when I did cocaine with my basketball coach?').
This is all bad news for Mila Kunis, the ostensible star of ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’, a movie that feels like a riff on Melissa McCarthy’s 2015 ‘Spy’ but lacks that film’s cheer-her-on verve. As Audrey, an organic-food-store cashier still moping over being ghosted months ago (by a guy who turns out to be in the CIA), Kunis has plenty of scope to ramp up her character, but she plays it too cool, resembling a mini–Angelina Jolie when armed and dangerous. You keep waiting to discover that Audrey has always been a highly trained operative and that being a cashier was her cover-up – nope, it’s just an unfortunate case of an actor not being clear on the concept.
Some of the film’s casting choices are obvious but still work for laughs, like Paul Reiser and Jane Curtin as neurotic parents, or ‘A Serious Man’s wonderful murmurer Fred Melamed in an evolving role as a handsy family friend. But apart from the welcome rarity of seeing a female duo front an action movie (not insignificant), this is an outing of little flair, inauspiciously directed by ‘Life Partners’ Susanna Fogel, and yet another baby step on the path to the McKinnon vehicle we’d all rather be watching instead.