I first saw the trailer for this film online and knew that I wanted to get to see the screening if I could. Part of what made me want to see it was Mila Kunis, who I loved in the “That Seventies Show” and I thoroughly enjoyed in “Bad Moms.” Then, we have Kate McKinnon who is one of the funniest stars of the recent remake of “Ghostbusters” and I was sold. I thought the premise was hilarious and the execution lived up to everything I expected and more.
Mila Kunis plays thirty year old Audrey who gets dumped by her boyfriend via text just before her birthday. Sounds like pretty standard fare but what isn’t standard, is that Audrey and her best friend, Morgan (Kate McKinnon) find themselves embroiled in an international conspiracy when they find out that Drew (Justin Theroux) is really a CIA spy with a trail of assassins hunting him to retrieve an item he left with Audrey that is of critical importance.
Before they know it, Audrey and Morgan must head to Europe as they try to evade the people trying to find them, including an MI6 agent, Sebastian (Sam Heughan), his partner Patel (Hasan Minhaj) and their boss, Wendy (Gillian Anderson). They are also being hunted by Russian spies including an assassin hired to track them down, Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno). With no one they can trust, the women must figure out the importance of what Drew gave them and how to keep it out of the bad guy’s hands.
If you’ve ever watched a buddy spy movie, you will recognize a lot of the genre in this movie. The director, Susanna Fogel, who also helped write the film, has made some really great choices with this movie. One of the key elements was taking the standard spy film and casting two women. Both women are mismatched, Mila being cast as the more nervous and less confident role while Kate McKinnon plays the part of the friend who is willing to take risks and is more confident. This decision is part of what drives the humor. The pair play off each other so well, creating tension and adding to the comedy throughout the movie. It is the friendship that keep the laughter engaging, including the fact that the pair never snipe at each other or fight. There is love and support between them, giving them each other to lean on when they don’t know who to trust around them.
The other part of the writing that makes this movie one that I really liked is that it is very female oriented. While it never too raunchy, it does give us some bits that women will totally be in synch with, beginning with Audrey’s boyfriend breaking up with her via text, her willingness to downplay her own skills, and her inability to be confident. Those themes are very much ideas that women will relate to and will enjoy watching Audrey learn to strut her stuff and be the one to save the day along with her best friend. The jokes will resonate well, including the surprise of where Audrey hides the item that Drew gives her and the pair’s conversation with the assassin Nadedja as they try to convince her that neither of the women can lie.
While a great deal of the humor is female directed, there are plenty of bits that anyone will find funny. During one escape, the two try to escape in a nearby car. Unfortunately, neither knows how to drive a stick shift and they slowly come to a stop. There is also a scene with a ‘taxi’ driver, (think rideshare and you’ll be closer). As the driver tells them he’s a DJ on the weekends, I couldn’t help but laugh, thinking of all the rideshare drivers I know who have other gigs on the side.
There are unexpected moments, like people who aren’t who they appear to be. Even the music aids with these scenes as at a critical moment, as the women are trying to arrange a meeting, the Pink Panther theme plays in the background. The writers use all the usual spy tricks but manage to infuse new humor into it.
What truly sells the movie for me is the chemistry between Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon. They feel like they’ve been working together and friends forever. Their characters are supportive and loving throughout the movie which is novel in movies with two women together, especially where a man is involved. Neither is catty and they end up saving themselves as well as everyone else. Gillian Anderson is perfect as the boss of the spy agency, feminine and strong, keeping to that theme of women not needing men to thrive. While the men are important and are never demeaned, this is truly a female driven vehicle. That said, both Justin Theroux and Sam Heughan do solid work, empathetic and charismatic. The best bit parts are Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser as Morgan’s parents, who even from the United States help their daughter and are hilarious.
The villains are predictable. It was easy enough to figure out who was after the women and the conclusion of the movie. It was also a bit longer than it needed to be, the pacing in certain sections slightly off as they bounce around Europe from country to country. I truly didn’t need the title of every country. It did drag down the rhythm and the tension of the movie without adding anything that helped the film.
The only other small critique is that Kate McKinnon is a bit too much at times. While her comedy routine can be funny, there are times it distracts from the overall movie and I felt was one of the reasons the pacing was slower than necessary. That said, I did find her funny and her character being too much was written in, part of the background of Morgan, that sometimes she goes too far. I felt that helped counterbalance the comedian’s tendency to take her jokes too far and Mila Kunis’s character countered this as well.
Overall, I thought this was a great example of twist on a buddy spy movie, reminding me just a bit of a better version of “Spies Like Us.” where instead of an average man pulled into the spy world, you get the average woman pulled in and she ends up excelling at being a spy. I loved the interaction and play between Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon while the other actors enhance the comedy and the story. If you like female oriented comedy with women who get to kick ass, you will love this movie. Even if you aren’t a woman, there are jokes that make anyone laugh. I found it completely hilarious!
Rating: 4 out of 5 trophies
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