To understand the experience of watching “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” it is first necessary to understand the Cheesecake Factory. Allow me to explain:
You enter the restaurant with a few dishes in mind, only to have so many offered to you that the spiral-bound menu requires page numbers. The hodgepodge décor turns the ugly dial all the way to 11. You will leave feeling overstuffed (and probably a little regretful).
How perfect, then, that one of the action-comedy’s funniest moments is a quip about the restaurant: “Dostoevsky wrote that menu.” Kate McKinnon’s throwaway line leads to a quick realization: The movie is the cinematic equivalent of the Cheesecake Factory.
Everywoman Audrey (Mila Kunis) is a grocery-store cashier who discovers – shortly after a breakup with boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) – that her ex isn’t really the host of an NPR podcast about jazz and economics (and thank God for that). In reality, he’s a CIA operative, now on the run from bad guys who want a flash drive he has hidden in the base of a fantasy-football trophy.
After Drew gets shot, informing his astonished ex that she is a target, too, Audrey and loyal best friend Morgan (McKinnon) embark on an involuntary European adventure to deliver the flash drive to Drew’s Viennese contact. But such tasks are never simple, are they? The women get chased around the continent by a Russian gymnast turned assassin (Ivanna Sakhno) and assisted by bickering intelligence agents Sebastian and Duffer (Sam Heughan and Hasan Minhaj), all three of whom want to get their hands on the drive.
That’s a whole lot of menu.
But filmmaker Susanna Fogel, who wrote the film with David Iserson, is no Dostoevsky. Despite a few bits where the action-comedy hybrid actually works – such as when a European traveler assumes that Audrey, Morgan and Sebastian are American simply because they have pulled guns on him – neither genre is given enough room to breathe. The movie also works overtime to earn its R rating, larding the plot with gratuitous nudity and exceedingly graphic murders. (Waiter, can I get the SkinnyLicious version?)
Look, people go to the Cheesecake Factory for a reason. But the miscast Kunis feels like low-carb cheesecake, with McKinnon as a slice of the delightful peanut butter fudge. As with this past season of “Saturday Night Live,” the actress’ trademark kookiness saves the day. You’ll want to slap Drew when he tells Morgan, disdainfully, that she is a “little too much.”
Even her character’s shrieking declaration that Gillian Anderson’s classy spy chief is “the Beyoncé of the government” manages to charm (and the spy genre could certainly do with more female representation).
Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Laugh a little bit, but prepare to be overwhelmed a lot.