Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Ike Barinholtz, Tom Bateman, Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack, Christopher Meloni, Bashir Salahuddin, Oscar Jaenada, Randall Park, Arturo Castro
MPAA Rating: (for crude sexual content, brief nudity, and language throughout)
Running Time: 1:31
Release Date: 5/12/17
Review by Mark Dujsik | May 12, 2017
One would not expect that a comedy about two American women being kidnapped while on vacation in Ecuador would play it safe. The premise of Snatched almost demands that it be treated with protective gloves, because there's nothing particularly funny about it. Hence, the movie isn't really about kidnapping. It's about a daughter and mother bonding while on a bumbling adventure that just happens to begin because the pair is kidnapped by a Colombian gang.
The movie promises a bit more with its opening title cards, which inform us that the story features violence, mayhem, and "a general disregard for human life." The punch line follows that disclaimer: "The kidnappers did some bad things, too." Then there's the additional promise of the movie's stars: Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn—the former having recently rocketed to prominence with her defiance of residual gender expectations and the latter having made a five-decade career in a similar vein. That Hawn hasn't appeared in a movie for 15 years brings with it another expectation, because surely she had some scripts come her away in the interim.
Perhaps it's unfair to assume that the two actresses' attachment to the movie signals something about it—something potentially clever, subversive, and/or just plainly funny. The movie is often the last descriptor, if only because Schumer can switch from brash to vulnerable to deadpan without missing a beat. It's also because Hawn's timing is so good that one joke, involving a spit-take immediately after the accented pronunciation of the word "welcome," doesn't even need the dialogue explaining the joke that follows. In fact, it's likely that people will miss the explanation, as unexpected, perfectly timed, and violently executed as that spit-take is. We know exactly what she thinks is in the glass that she just chugged, simply on account of the timing.
The movie works when it's Schumer and Hawn's show, and that's how it goes awry once the main characters are kidnapped. At that point, it's no longer about the actresses. It's about the characters' misadventures, the assortment of supporting players who pop on screen every now and then, and the main characters' gradual shift from a mother and daughter who don't understand each other to a mother and daughter who do. The last part is to be expected. It's routine in a story like this, but it also means that the comic drive of their relationship diminishes along with the evolution of that relationship.
Schumer plays Emily, who loses her job and her boyfriend (played by the always-reliable Randall Park) just before the two were supposed to take a vacation to Ecuador. Her mother Linda (Hawn), a divorcée who doesn't hear from her daughter nearly enough, has had a lonely life since her husband left (another gem of timing from Hawn: "After I got divorced, I told myself I'd never have sex again," and after a beat and an anticipatory look of terror from Schumer, "I was right"). Emily invites her mom to come to Ecuador with her, only breaking through her mother's hesitation with the phrase "un-refundable tickets."
Emily meets a guy named James (Tom Bateman) at the bar of the all-inclusive resort where she and her mother are staying. They drink and dance the night away, and he promises to take her and Linda on an adventure the next day. That's a group of guys plow their van into James' jeep, hold Emily and Linda for ransom, and get nowhere with Emily's agoraphobic brother Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz). Emily and Linda escape (with Emily "accidentally" killing her first of a couple of victims) and find themselves lost in Colombia.
The joke of how Emily and Linda are polar opposites isn't much, although it's deep compared to the shared desperation that becomes both characters' defining trait. Those characters and their conflict take the backseat to others, such as Christopher Meloni's wannabe adventurer, who leads the women through the jungle (The character's exit is his funniest moment), and Jeffrey, as he attempts to assemble a rescue through an apathetic bureaucrat (played by an amusingly dry Bashir Salahuddin) at the State Department. The most promising characters are fellow tourists Ruth (Wanda Sykes), who anticipates the worst in everything and everyone, and Barb (Joan Cusack), a former special operations soldier who cut out her tongue after retiring—lest anyone try to torture any information out of her. They're ideas, not characters, though.
The movie becomes a situational comedy in which the gags overshadow the characters. Some of those gags work, and some of them, such as Emily having a tapeworm lured out of her digestive tract, come from so far out of left field that they're too confounding to be particularly funny. The entire kidnapping angle to the story ends up seeming like an afterthought—a questionable plot device to keep everything moving. The screenplay by Katie Dippold seems hesitant to take advantage of the inherent nastiness of the premise, too, save for the way Emily unintentionally kills a couple of the only relatives of the gang leader (played by Oscar Jaenada).
All of this is slightly better than it might sound, although most of that is due to the performances, especially—and obviously—from Schumer and Hawn. They're the backbone of Snatched, and one wishes the movie allowed them to remain its primary support system.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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