for crude sexual content, brief nudity, and language throughout
Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Joan Cusack, Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes
Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping,
20th Century Fox on
In a curious way, Snatched is a little like an Amy Schumer stand-up routine: sometimes edgy, occasionally hilarious, but lessened by bits that fall flat. Unlike Trainwreck, which featured strong writing and an opportunity for Schumer to display her acting chops, Snatched is a straightforward action-comedy (emphasis on the latter) that's more interested in getting viewers to laugh than it is in developing a well-rounded, believable character. The movie is funnier than most so-called comedies and works as a breezy 90-minute diversion but it's less ambitious than Trainwreck and more interested in packaging Schumer for mainstream appeal.
Perhaps surprisingly, the central conceit is among the elements of Snatched that doesn't work. I'm referring to the mother/daughter relationship between Schumer's Emily Middleton and Goldie Hawn's Linda. On paper, the fusion of two generations of leading ladies of comedy seems like a can't-miss prospect and, although both actresses get their share of laughs, the chemistry is lacking. Whether a function of the screenplay, the direction, or even editing choices, Schumer and Hawn never evolve into more than a stereotyped fractious combo. There's one scene - a dramatically poignant one in which Hawn bemoans what happens when children outgrow their parents - that hints at what might have been but the apparent strong off-screen connection between the leads doesn't translate. In fact, there's stronger chemistry between supporting players Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack than there is between Schumer and Hawn.
Snatched contains some hilarious material. Sure, there are jokes and gags that fly as high as a helium balloon with a hole, but Schumer's fingerprints are all over Kate Dippold's script. Dippold, who was also credited for The Heat and the Ghostbuster remake, understands the importance of collaboration with the comediennes for whom she's writing so, although WGA rules don't allow Schumer an official screenplay acknowledgment, her contributions are evident. There are sight gags (the boob appearance) and one-liners ("Welcome") aplenty. The extended sequences are uneven. Most of the material focused on Ike Barinholtz's Jeffrey fall somewhere between unfunny and painful. But there are instances of comic gold like the way Christopher Meloni's character is used to skewer the male adventurer stereotype. You can see where this is going from miles away but that doesn't mean the execution of the punch-line isn't hilarious. Humor often dies as a result predictability but this is a rare exception when that's not the case.
Snatched uses a smartly-written break-up scene to kick off the action. Emily, who had planned a romantic trip to Ecuador with her boyfriend, is suddenly saddled with two unrefundable tickets when he decides that he wants more variety in the sex department than Emily can provide. After being turned down by friends, neighbors, and ne'er-do-wells in trying to find a companion, Emily provides her mother, Linda, to join her. This isn't an ideal match. Emily and Linda are like oil and water and Linda's idea of a holiday is wearing lots of clothing to avoid exposing her skin to the sun and curling up with a good book.
One night in paradise, Emily meets James (Tom Bateman), a dashing Brit with a suave manner and a great body. After charming Emily during a night out, he takes mother and daughter on an "adventure" the next day. It turns out, however, that James is involved in a kidnapping operation masterminded by Columbian drug lord Morgado (Oscar Jaenada) and Emily and Linda are his latest victims. When they attempt to foil his plans by escaping, they make him angry and he becomes determined to recapture them not only to claim the ransom but to extract payment from them in flesh and blood.
Schumer's charisma is the best reason to see Snatched. The scenes in which she doesn't appear lack the spark of energy she brings to most of the film. Wanda Sykes (unusually restrained), Joan Cusack (playing a mute), and Christopher Meloni all shine in supporting roles. Goldie Hawn, making her first screen appearance in 15 years, is okay but this is far from her finest or funniest performance. The script doesn't allow her much opportunity to expand beyond the stereotype and, although she gets a few laughs, she spends most of the time in Schumer's shadow.
Snatched is a savvy example of counterprogramming, taking advantage of a heavily male-oriented May schedule to provide a female-friendly option. That's not to say that the movie won't work for men - it's just as raunchy as any male-fronted comedy and the percentage of laugh-provoking jokes is higher - but the marketing is being aimed at women. For me, Snatched fills a more important role: it's a rare summer season film that isn't a sequel or remake and, as a comedy, it's more amusing than tedious. Those qualities are unusual enough in 2017 that, although Snatched isn't likely to take its place among the great action-comedies of all time, it's worth a recommendation.
© 2017 James Berardinelli
Cinemas About Town