The best part of the new action-comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me is without question Kate McKinnon, and it’s further proof — not that we needed it — that she deserves more starring vehicles.
I laughed a lot throughout and enjoyed The Spy Who Dumped Me quite a bit, especially as an ode to female friendship from a female writer/director, Suanna Fogel, who previously helmed the buddy comedy Life Partners and TV series Chasing Life. Throughout all the Spy-esque antiques of espionage and a surprising amount of bloodshed, there is a wonderful emotional undercurrent about these two lifelong friends, Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon), who are so close that when other characters discover this, they are suspicious of how much these two know about each other. Turns out that’s the magic of being best friends.
Most of my laughs, however, came exclusively from anything and everything Kate McKinnon was doing onscreen. The way she uses her face, body language, expression, intonation, and just the way she carries herself and adds such subtlety of comedy to the smallest line delivery, it’s masterful. We are, of course, no stranger to her comedic prowess as she’s on track to win her third consecutive Emmy award for SNL.
And here in The Spy Who Dumped Me, she takes a character that could’ve been your typical sidekick, because it’s really what the role calls for, and totally elevates it. She’s the fun-loving friend to Mila Kunis’ lead Audrey, the one who gets the romantic interest. There’s a turning point in the movie that hinges on a character calling Morgan “too much,” something women are familiar with hearing when they don’t fall into a convenient box for straight men to “get” them. That’s where Audrey finds herself, and while in a lesser movie, it could’ve been an opportunity to open her eyes to “change herself” in order to “get the guy,” but this isn’t that movie. Audrey reinforces to Morgan that she’s perfect as her quirky, normal self.
It’s partially thanks to a smart script from Susanna Fogel, and largely thanks to Kate McKinnon’s performance, that Morgan turns out to be the more interesting and compelling character of the two. I mean, she gives a necessary feminist bent to the proceedings and even flirts with a female detective played by Gillian Anderson.
And it’s no coincidence that every comedy McKinnon has a role in, she ends up being the best part. The two cases that come to mind are the admittedly lackluster Rough Night, in which she created a privileged and stuck-up Australian, and of course the unfairly attacked all-female Ghostbusters reboot where she beamed in a character from another planet and created something completely singular and memorable. In both movies, she’s the thing that stands out. What’s exciting about all of her performances are the bold choices she makes for her characters.
As much as I’m saying Kate McKinnon needs more leading roles, it’s not like she isn’t getting work. Outside of SNL and other studio comedy roles, she’s the new Ms. Frizzle in Netflix’s Magic School Bus series, and she has booked a variety of other voice work, as well. And, my wish for a first-billed leading role for the comedienne will come true upon the release of the family fantasy comedy, The Lunch Witch. I don’t know much about it, but from what’s available online, it looks like this is the perfect kind of role for McKinnon to really dig in and give us something that’s spectacularly weird and totally her.