Learning From Bad Movies

If you watch a great movie, you can be intimidated into thinking you can’t write something that good (you can). So to boost your confidence, take time occasionally to watch a bad movie. When you see a bad movie, you can certainly see yourself writing something far better. The latest bad movie to consider watching is “The Spy Who Dumped Me.”

Like all bad movies, “The Spy Who Dumped Me” has an intriguing premise: a woman is dumped by her boyfriend, only to find out that her boyfriend is really a spy working for the CIA. Where the movie goes wrong is that its story has no structure and no theme.

The vague hint of a theme appears when the hero keeps emphasizing that she never finishes anything and she never does anything with her life. Yet this theme is never fully realized in any other characters or in any obstacles that challenge the hero. “The Spy Who Dumped Me” is all action and no substance. Take the hero out of the action scene and you can drop in any generic character into that action scene and it would make absolutely no difference. The action scenes exist solely for action. “The Spy Who Dumped Me” aims for comedy but provides few laughs. Just watch the action scenes alone and most are either completely empty of humor or offer weak jokes.

One recurring “joke” occurs when a villain constantly mentions that he went to Harvard. Not only is this not funny or informative in any way, but it has nothing to do with the theme and appears to come out of nowhere in a lame attempt at humor.

Most of the time, “The Spy Who Dumped Me” has no humor at all, just lots of action. The plot itself makes no sense so it’s not even a good action story. Because the humor is absent most of the time, it’s also not a good comedy either.

Compare “The Spy Who Dumped Me” with the original “Ghostbusters.” Even when the ghostbusters are facing the villain in the end (the giant marshmallow man), it’s still funny that the marshmallow man would even appear as an evil character.

In “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” all action scenes are empty of humor. In a final battle, the hero’s sidekick battles a villain on a trapeze. Not only is this relatively boring to watch, but there’s no trace of humor. There’s also the lack of believability because we’ve never seen this sidekick do anything athletic at all, and suddenly she’s fighting a trained gymnast on a trapeze.

Watch any scene in “The Spy Who Dumped Me” and you’ll find that it’s largely isolated from any other scenes so there’s no setup, anticipation, and payoff. In one scene, the hero and her sidekick are riding in an Uber-like car to get away from men chasing them. This Uber driver then cheers at the idea of driving wildly, and promptly gets shot in the head and dies. Any humor there?

Another scene shows the hero and her sidekick in a youth hostel when a villain appears. Suddenly, the hero’s hostel roommate shows up and beats the villain up. This occurs so suddenly that it’s not funny or emotionally satisfying in any way.

There’s a recurring “joke” where someone the hero knows constantly puts her down, first in person at the hero’s birthday party, and later on TV while discussing the hero. This person’s dialogue fails to be funny in any way. Plus this person appears twice and never appears again, has no purpose in the rest of the story, and never gets defeated in the end by the hero in any way.

“The Spy Who Dumped Me” is a perfect example of a bad movie that lacks a strong story. Comedies are always about something. Strip away the comedy and you still have a story behind it. In “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” there’s isn’t a strong story and the comedy lacks a target. Nobody really changes emotionally so there’s literally no story.

In “Miss Congeniality,” the humor constantly focuses on beauty pageants and the hero learns to embrace being a woman. In “Ghostbusters,” the comedy focuses on the interaction between the characters and the hero learns to fall in love with a woman. In “Spy,” the comedy pokes fun at James Bond spy movies and the hero learns to become more confident. In “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” there is no consistent target and the hero never really changes and nobody else changes emotionally either. The movie simply tries too hard to be funny and fails most of the time. Even worse, most of the time it’s not even trying to be funny. With no emotional change in the hero (or anyone else), “The Spy Who Dumped Me” is nothing more than watching a boring character going from one action scene to another and never changing one bit. Since story is about change, “The Spy Who Dumped Me” offers nothing to an audience.

Watch “The Spy Who Dumped Me” to realize that poor story structure can never be covered up with action or actors cussing profusely all the time. Without a story, you literally have nothing and nothing is a perfect summary of a bad movie like “The Spy Who Dumped Me.”

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