Mila Kunis is vomiting in a bathroom. More accurately, her character Audrey is the one vomiting after swallowing a slab of poisoned meat from another European friend-turned-foe in “The Spy Who Loved Me.” As her acerbic confidante Morgan (Kate McKinnon) rushes in to catch the chunk-spewing show, we’re reminded of the absurdity but pure elation this comedic spy caper is capable of providing.
“The Spy Who Loved Me” turns the spotlight on the oft-forgotten romantic entanglements of the Ethan Hunts and Jack Ryans of the world, the gorgeous young woman working retail gigs and cozying up in dingbat apartments waiting for their boos to call after they’ve finished assassinating diplomats and disarming nukes. This story’s bombshell focuses on Audrey, Trader Joes employee still forlorn after her BF Drew (Justin Theroux) unceremoniously dumped her by text. But Drew returns, warning Audrey she needs to meet a contact in Vienna. Morgan happily hops along, with the two now embroiled in high-level international espionage without proper weaponry, let alone a EuroPass.
The pacing is off and we don’t spend enough time getting familiar with Audrey or Morgan to really care about their struggles with gymnast torturers or double agent hostel bunkmates. But the humor is fresh and organic, feeling less like a script and more a long improv session between Kunis and McKinnon. Sometimes the gags are forced, like two CIA agents obnoxiously bickering over the merits of a Harvard education. But “The Spy Who Loved Me’s” lead stars have enough charisma and chemistry to make even the cheesiest of lines taste like the finest slab of comedic Gouda.
It’s no coincidence that “The Spy Who Loved Me” was released just a week after “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.” The latter film, the sixth in its franchise, proved that the world hasn’t been worn out by Ethan Hunt’s on-screen escapades, but still acknowledged that a certain amount of camp is necessary to make the impossible possible. “The Spy Who Loved Me” takes that camp blends it with a splash of Apatow comedic sincerity and gross out gags. “The Spy Who Loved Me” is not a “Bridesmaids” leap forward for female comedy as much a high hop in place, a film that realizes the limits of its story potential but doesn’t stop from leaping towards the stars.