There’s an appealingly shaggy buddy comedy hidden somewhere inside of The Spy Who Dumped Me, but good luck finding it amid all the desperate poop jokes, lifeless action sequences, and lazy plot mechanics. The film teams Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon as directionless thirtysomething best friends whose lives are turned upside down when Audrey (Kunis) discovers that Drew (Justin Theroux), the handsome boyfriend who recently ghosted her, isn’t just a guy who hosts an NPR podcast about jazz and economics, but a gun-toting, globe-trotting C.I.A. agent embroiled in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse over that most enduring of spy-film MacGuffins: a flash drive. When Drew is brutally murdered before their eyes, Audrey and her bestie, Morgan (McKinnon), set off for Europe to get to the bottom of an international conspiracy.
The rest of Susanna Fogel’s film is bog-standard espionage business, from secret rendezvous to surveillance antics. And it’s all studded with indifferently staged shootouts, car chases, and hand-to-hand combat—scenes that are neither outlandish enough to be humorous nor executed well enough to work as legitimate action sequences. Instead, they’re just kind of there, signifying excitement without actually producing it at any point. The filmmakers are strangely fond of deploying bloodshed as a kind of shock punchline, introducing some goofy comedic side character and then abruptly killing him off, a technique that tends to feel arbitrary and even a little bit ugly.
The film’s blasé attitude toward violence feels out of step with the low-key comedic energy of its leads, who have the buzzy chemistry of a classic comedy duo like Martin and Lewis: McKinnon the wacky, rubber-faced clown and Kunis her debonair straight-woman. The Spy Who Dumped Me only really starts humming when it gives McKinnon the room to work her unpredictable comedy magic—twisting her body like a pretzel and belting out her lines in weird sing-song cadences—and Kunis has to bring her back down to Earth.
Unfortunately, the film mostly calls on its leads to wring laughs out of lowbrow bits of business, such as having diarrhea or cutting the thumb off a corpse. Kunis and McKinnon simply can’t overcome the deficiencies of Fogel and David Iserson’s screenplay, which has the quivery, uncertain quality of a first draft. The filmmakers never seems to have figured out exactly what they wanted to make: a trigger-happy espionage comedy, a gal-pals hangout film, or maybe just a gender-swapped retread of EuroTrip. In the end, The Spy Who Dumped Me turns out to be all of these things and less.