Audrey Stockton (played by Mila Kunis) doesn’t feel she’s a natural at anything. “It’s not like I’ve done anything impressive in my life,” she tells of the many titular spies in the film by way of exposition. Her biggest fear in life is that of being perceived as average, and this, as it turns out, is a rare moment of prescience in a film that prides itself on being mundane. Audrey’s BFF, played by Kate McKinnon, is Morgan – or, to be more precise, Morgan Freeman, in a gag-worthy, puerile attempt to mine the Shawshank Redemption star’s name for laughs. They consider each other as de-facto siblings, considering their long track record of unequivocal sisterhood. When Morgan claims that Audrey and Drew, the latter’s boyfriend – played by a nonchalant Justin Theroux – make for a rather surprising couple, the irony of that statement becomes immediately evident. They are as different as chalk and cheese, these two women – one is a ‘Double O Sexy’ who ‘Instagrams’ on the freeway and lost her virginity to John Mayer’s Your Body is a Wonderland, the other a lice-afflicted feminist who is relegated to kissing her own cousin and having ‘sex dreams about Minions’ – and yet their resolve to stand by each other remains on firm ground at all times.
It all begins with the dumping of a girl via a text message. A much wanted spy, having carried out the aforementioned act, bursts into an apartment, smashes the entire balcony down and braces himself for the fall – before landing up on a conveniently placed dumpster, of course – and the unfortunate woman in question ends up bearing the brunt of her ex-paramour’s two-sided existence. A package containing a much coveted flash drive, one that happens to be hidden inside an innocuous-looking trophy, is being pursued by a whole bunch of hoodlums, and in the midst of these scheming, machinating men, our protagonists must try and restore some notion of sanity to their lives.
One of the biggest problems with writer-director Susanna Fogel’s screenplay is that it tries way, way too hard to be funny, and none of the jokes really land. References to iconic films about espionage abound – from ‘Tinker Tailor Stoner Spy’ to Judi Dench’s ‘MI6 lady’ in Skyfall to Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt himself (this time, the mission, should one be as foolhardy as to accept it, is to choose the worst song on a jukebox) – and yet, The Spy Who Dumped Me never really succeeds in evoking the charm, wit and gravitas of any of these. The dialogue is an overwrought, overwritten mess, and all the actors here, save for a sparkling, ebullient Kate McKinnon, go through the motions, delivering inconsistent, wooden-faced performances. Barry Peterson’s cinematography is one of the few saving graces in this misbegotten Lionsgate production, and the film flits from one dazzling European location to another – from Vilnius to Vienna, from the Vltava river in Prague to the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin – and yet, by the time the climax comes around with cigarettes that double up as electrocutors and trapeze artists that engage in a mid-air dance of death-defying oneupmanship – there’s an undeniable sense of been-there-seen-it-all tedium to the proceedings.
“Burn! Burn! Burn!” Audrey and Morgan incant at one point in the film, as if trying to invoke some kind of voodoo chant. The ex-boyfriend’s belongings – a trophy for excellence in fantasy football chief among them – are being methodically hurled into what resembles a burning barbeque grill, and clearly, both women are of the belief that revenge is a dish that should only be served hot. As for this film, it is one that’s best consigned to the flames. When it comes to the disposal of trash, nothing quite works like a good ol’ incinerator.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Shreehari H is a lover of films and an even greater lover of writing.
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