McKinnon channels her inner spy in uneven ‘Spy’

By Jocelyn Noveck

AP National Writer

From the get-go, “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” a Kate McKinnon-Mila Kunis buddy spy comedy, has two things going for it.

First, female spies are clearly in vogue, if you’ve been reading the news – or if you prefer your spies to be fictional, may we recommend Keri Russell’s recently departed Elizabeth Jennings on “The Americans”?

More importantly, the film has McKinnon, whose comedic brilliance on “Saturday Night Live” has yet to find the perfect big-screen vehicle. It will, one day, but this movie isn’t it. Still, her presence gives the film – an often entertaining but chaotically uneven experience – its energy and spark.

The main problem with “The Spy Who Dumped Me” is its strange dissonance of tone.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to be a hard-knuckle action film and a goofy comedy all at once. But here, that effort results in moments of occasionally stunning violence that simply don’t mesh with the light-hearted vibe the filmmakers seek elsewhere.

Talented director Susanna Fogel (who co-wrote the script with David Iserson) clearly feels that a female action comedy doesn’t need to be short on the action, and that’s totally true. But gender issues aside, there’s action, and there’s serious violence. When an appealingly kooky character gets shot in the head during a hilarious car chase, it suddenly doesn’t feel so hilarious. Likewise when someone drowns in a pot of fondue or gets impaled on a blade. Granted, such a balance is always tough to strike.

The adventure – often bloody, sometimes fondue-soaked – takes Audrey and Morgan to a series of scenic European capitals.

The funniest scenes, not surprisingly, have nothing to do with complex stunts or violence, but simple laughs, as when the two women hijack a car from an elderly couple, but realize it’s a stick shift and slowly inch it down the street before just handing it back.

Also funny: when Morgan, during a high-speed car chase, suggests to Audrey that it’s self-defeating to use the turn signal.

The cast is often delightful, from Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser as Morgan’s parents back home, to a deliciously dry Gillian Anderson as a harried British spy chief.

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