They didn’t screen this movie for the critics, because they figured we’d all rip it to shreds. I get that. Critics like the stuffy foreign films, and a crazy comedy like this often doesn’t stand a chance. And that’s a shame, because it often gets me into big arguments with other critics.
So I headed to my favorite movie theatre, the Angelika Film Center on Carmel Mountain Road, and caught this on opening night. I’m glad I did. My wife and I couldn’t stop laughing (well, we kind of did in the 3rd act, but still…).
Now, The Spy Who Dumped Me isn’t as funny as the Mike Myers parody The Spy Who Shagged Me, but it’s certainly a lot better than I thought it would be.
Director Susanna Fogel co-wrote the script. She could’ve edited 20 minutes out. It could’ve also used about 10 fewer poop jokes. And the chemistry between Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon wasn’t the best, but overall, the movie had enough laughs to make it worth your time.
The action scenes were surprisingly well-shot and exciting. A few critics have complained it was a little too violent. I can see that.
Kunis plays Aubrey, a 30-year-old cashier that plays video games, drinks, and hangs out with her bestie Morgan (McKinnon). She’s trying to get over Drew (Justin Theroux), who isn’t returning her texts. She thinks he’s dumping her, but it’s because he’s doing spy business and being shot at. It’s hard to return calls under those circumstances.
As you probably know from the trailers, this sends Audrey and Morgan over to Europe, armed with a 2nd place fantasy football trophy (just typing that cracks me up). They end up being pursued by assassins, CIA agents, and lots of other bad guys. There’s also an MI6 agent named Sebastian (Sam Heughan), who might be a good guy, but you never know who to trust.
Cinematographer Barry Peterson gave us some nice action footage in the comedy Game Night, and he does it again here.
There are a handful of comedic scenes I’ve seen done in other movies, but they were done with a fresh take here that made them funny. One of those scenes had them stealing a Jaguar that had a stick shift, which neither of them knew how to drive. Another had Aubrey playfully handing a quarter to Drew, saying “Your mission, should you choose to take accept it, is to pick the worst song on the jukebox.”
He skips by Mambo #5, claiming he liked the first four. And, instead of one of the usual cheesy songs we think we’re going to hear, it’s the Crash Test Dummies song “Mmm” which is even funnier once he starts singing along to it.
There’s also a hysterical scene involving torture. We’ve seen those done so many times, but you’ll die laughing at how this former gymnast (Ivanna Sakhno of Pacific Rim Uprising) does it, as well as her facial expressions and wide-eyed craziness.
X Files actress Gillian Anderson shows up as a CIA boss, but isn’t given much to do. It was nice to see Paul Reiser and Jane Curtain as parents, who have a few great lines.
I was especially pleased to see one of the underrated character actors (and voice-over artists) Fred Melamed. In his scene, when he’s trying to talk fine wine and art with Morgan, it’s funny enough. She’s so out of her element and trying to keep up. But when he asks if she likes Balzac, the look on her face and what she says might be the biggest laugh you’ll have in a film all year (it probably helps if you know who Honore de Balzac is, and not just because like Morgan, you think it sounds like “ball sac”).
Another one of the biggest laughs I may have had in a movie all year, came when the two friends are talking about the Cheesecake Factory. Morgan says, “I just love that menu. It’s like Dostoevsky wrote it.”
There’s a fun CIA agent (Hasan Minhaj), that has a lot of lines where he brags about being a Harvard graduate. That never got old.
A lot of critics are knocking this movie, yet admitting in their reviews how often they laughed. Well then, why give it a bad review? Other critics are praising it for being a buddy/action picture with two women as leads, directed by a female. Again, who cares? I’m one of the few critics that didn’t go nuts over Wonder Woman, because it was an average superhero film. You don’t get extra credit for hiring women directors. It’s awesome that they did, but I would’ve rather had a better superhero film. This movie deserves credit for making you laugh, and not being one of those movies where you say “They showed all the funny scenes in the trailers.” Because…those trailers were pretty damn funny.
3 stars out of 5.