A leaden, violent and tone-deaf script and two surprisingly unfunny stars — one trying WAY too hard and the other not trying at all — bury “The Spy Who Dumped Me.”
This strictly-according to formula espionage thriller is so laugh-starved it makes you wonder how this can’t-miss formula ever worked in the first place.
Double and triple crosses? Check. Motorcycle assassins who chase the heroines through the street of whatever European city they’re in (Vienna)? Check.
Exotic talky torture? Of course. Climax in “The Big Gala” or “The Circus?” Let’s do BOTH at once!
And the violence! My stars, the bloodshed!
But none of it clicks because the stars never do. Kate McKinnon mugs so much it’s as if she’s playing to a “Saturday Night Live” audience on a film set, where extras and crew are ordered not to laugh to spoil the take. And nobody told her.
Co-star Mila Kunis phones this one in, which adds to McKinnon’s desperate hamming, riffing, groping for laughs that the script doesn’t give her and she cannot improvise.
Kunis plays Audrey, freshly-dumped via text by her swarthy, stubbly boyfriend (Justin Thereoux).
BFF Morgan (McKinnon) tries to cheer her up at her birthday party, but the occasion just makes Audrey mope for the party, a year ago, when she met Drew.
Even Morgan’s “Let’s burn his s—” suggestion of a bonfire for what he left in the apartment fails to, um, ignite.
But we’ve seen Drew in action in the prologue, a secret agent man fending off back guys and snapping their necks when the need arises. Of course Audrey doesn’t know.
And she’s just vulnerable enough to follow the handsome Brit (Sam Heughan) out of the organic market where she works, only to be stuffed into a van. Sebastian and his Harvard Man sidekick (Hasan Minhaj) want whatever Drew left for her.
No idea what they’re talking about, but when Drew suddenly appears, she understands. Kind of. Just as She Drew is murdered, right in front of her eyes.
His dying words send her and Morgan off to Europe, to Vienna, Prague and Paris, trying to make the connection Drew warned her to make, delivering the plot device (MacGuffin) he’s entrusted to the woman he dumped.
Action follows, a well-filmed chase that all but ends the moment they figure out they cannot drive a stick shift, would-be actress Morgan (The live in LA.) dons a disguise and utterly inappropriate accent, with a model/gymnast/assassin (Ivanna Sakhno) racing across Europe in an inconspicuous chrome Ferrari to kill them, and an irate MI-6 chief, “a real Judi Dench, IN THE FLESH” (Gillian Anderson) chewing them out and earning Morgan’s undying devotion.
The two moments you feel were “directed” here are that opening, an espionage in fall bit filmed in shades of blue, grey and white, and in a funny-deadly trapeze brawl.
=ut the jokes feel added on, as if nothing the director/co-writer (Susanna Fogel, mostly TV credits) prepped in advance was good enough to keep.
Morgan grabs an Amadeus hat in a train station and marvels, “They REALLY play up that Mozart was from here…and play DOWN that Hitler was here, too.”
Morgan’s constant affirmation of Audrey is a non-starter of a running gag, with “He literally works in intelligence, and you were more intelligent!” and the like not selling the joke.
It’s too soon to call the code on McKinnon’s big screen career, but considering her best roles were bit parts in middling fare like “Office Christmas Party” and “Masterminds,” that she’s overreached for laughs in “Ghostbusters” and this one, you have to wonder if the “SNL” MVP isn’t destined for a Dana Carvey sort of big screen career — stunted.
McKinnon has never been good in a movie. Kunis has never been worse.
Kunis seems to shrug off toting half the load here, deferring to McKinnon. No, dear, they didn’t just pay you to wear the designer gown and drop F-bombs. Her “reaction” to seeing her ex-boyfriend’s death, and the aftermath, is just wrong — even in a comedy.
The only time they’re both invested in the film is in manic patter torture scene, and that comes over an hour after the first significant on-screen death (there are several), long past the moment when this movie flatlines.
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language throughout, some crude sexual material and graphic nudity
Running time: 1:56