This is a movie I had little to no strong desire to see. Unfortunately, BlackkKlansman was not available at my local Vue cinema, despite being released in the UK on the 24th of August. So to alleviate my sadness, I decided to go see one of the American releases they actually chose to broadcast: The Happytime Murders, or The Spy Who Dumped Me. After a Twitter poll encouraged me towards the latter, I reluctantly attended, and though the film managed to entertain me for its – frankly rather bloated – two-hour runtime, I doubt I’ll be looking back on it fondly in years to come.
The premise is interesting enough, but nothing too groundbreaking: Mila Kunis plays Audrey, who after being dumped by her mysterious boyfriend discovers that he is, in fact, a spy, and after witnessing some of his work she has herself become a target. Accompanied by her longtime best friend, played by Kate McKinnon, she must avoid constant attacks from all angles, her dull life has finally gained some excitement, though maybe not in its most ideal form. The film has enough twists and turns to keep this plot relatively interesting, but unfortunately the characters are so paper thin that its hard for these high stakes to have any real tension. Ultimately, I didn’t particularly care who lived and died, particularly as everyone seemed to drop like flies in the first act.
This was definitely a writing issue. I mentioned that Audrey has a fairly mundane life prior to these wacky events, and I think I did this about as interestingly and subtly as the script did. Rather than being shown her dead-end job, her lack of social life, and her apparent inability to ‘finish anything’, we are told this by a series of characters we also have no knowledge of, leading Audrey’s growing confidence and maturity to feel tacked on and unnecessary. There are also hints at McKinnon’s character’s struggles, who incidentally is just Kate McKinnon, but these too are given nowhere near enough attention.
Having said this, the performances are decent. Mila Kunis is likeable enough to keep you relatively invested, and if you find Kate McKinnon’s humour funny then you’ll definitely enjoy large portions of this film. Gillian Anderson makes a brief appearance as an intimidating and high-powered member of MI5, and Ivanna Sakhno’s ice-cold villain Nadejha is interesting enough. Across the board in fact, the women are fairly entertaining, but the men are incredibly bland. The leading two tend towards a sad attempt at a James Bond impression, not bad enough to be funny but not good enough to be notable or memorable.
I appreciate that these films lead by women are being made and making back a good amount at the box office – and to be fair, the aspects that have only female characters or focus on the female experience make by far the most interesting scenes. So, although The Spy Who Dumped Me is no masterpiece, it kept me from checking my watch at the cinema, and if this fairly mediocre flick can lead to bigger, better projects for women, then bring it on.