The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Spy Who Dumped Me

Spoofing spy movies hasn't been a fresh idea in a long time, yet here comes The Spy Who Dumped Me to do it once again. There is a twist, though: the film has two women in the lead roles. Unfortunately, that's the only fresh idea on display. It's enough to carry the movie through the first hour, at which point everything becomes tiresome, despite the impressive efforts of stars Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon.

Audrey (Kunis) has just been dumped by her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux). Shortly thereafter, she discovers that he has actually been living a double life, pretending to be a podcaster while actually working as a government spy. Through a series of contrived events not worth recounting here, Audrey and her best friend Morgan (McKinnon) travel to Vienna to complete his mission. It involves all the usuals: a flash drive containing valuable information, a bunch of shadowy types looking to nab it, and, of course, an MI6 agent (Outlander's Sam Heughan) who may or may not be an ally.

The Spy Who Dumped Me has some very good qualities. Kunis and McKinnon strike up an amusing camaraderie together. The former plays a straight-laced, slightly baffled-by-life character, the latter one of those people who likes being the center of attention. They're fun together. McKinnon seems to have been allowed to ad lib a lot of quips, some of which earn chuckles.

Action scenes, of which there are many, are handled with surprising seriousness. This may be a comedy, but the desire to provide real excitement is evident. A scene in which the women are pursued by an assassin on a motorcycle is especially well-conceived, with some excellent stunt work. Violence related to these sequences is handled in a way that feels authentic. The picture earns its R rating, refusing to tone down the danger Audrey and Morgan are in.

The problems really begin about halfway through, when you realize that all of this has been done before, and done better. Cliches pop up left and right, too many nonsensical plot twists make it difficult to keep track of what's going on, there isn't a well-defined villain, and the final half-hour ventures into territory so implausible and over-the-top that intermittent laughter is replaced by repeated sighs of frustration.

Director/co-writer Susanna Fogel made a terrific indie four years ago called Life Partners. It is about two best friends, probably closer than they should be, whose relationship hits a rocky patch when one of them starts seriously dating a man, much to the other's dismay. Fogel clearly wanted to do something similar here to explore female friendship and the things that can test its boundaries in a format typically used to celebrate male bravado. As respectable as that is, the need to resolve all the plot threads involving the mission ultimately overtakes her goal. The story works best in the early scenes, where Audrey is discovering the uncomfortable truth about Drew, and Morgan is alternately supportive of, and sarcastic about, the situation.

Kunis and McKinnon are definitely the highlights. Someone should put them together in a different movie. The Spy Who Dumped Me is overlong and under-satisfying, even though they give the project their unequivocal commitment.

( out of four)

The Spy Who Dumped Me is rated R for violence, language throughout, some crude sexual material and graphic nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 56 minutes.

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