Hollywood doesn't know what to do with Kate McKinnon, so The Spy Who Dumped Me was perhaps inevitable. After stealing scenes on the margins, the cockeyed comic wonder has been given a co-leading role in the kind of wheezy cash-in breakout comics always turn up in: an on-the-run farce. But the dictates of programmatic movie plotting demand she surrender much of what audiences love about Kate McKinnon. Her great characters are sublimely unhousebroken, elvin and punkish at once, given to flights of gonzo enthusiasm for what doesn't matter to most people and who-gives-a-shit? disinterest toward what does. But the writers, producers and director of The Spy Who Dumped Me ask her only to quip a little, to make can-you-believe-this? faces during the gunfights, to above all else keep the plot moving along.
McKinnon plays Morgan, The Best Friend, someone who cares deeply about the specifics of the plot and offers words of encouragement that motivate her co-lead, Mila Kunis' Audrey. These are marks any performer in Hollywood could hit, and giving them to McKinnon is extravagantly wasteful, like hiring Mary Halvorson, the brilliantly eccentric jazz guitarist and composer, to play straight leads over karaoke pop tracks. Kunis is, as always, appealing, but Morgan and Audrey aren't specific enough to prove compelling, and McKinnon and Kunis only intermittently bring them to life. When McKinnon's Morgan looks stung that a man tells her she's "a little much," it's a surprise. Who knew she cared about or even noticed what anyone else thinks?