By Jack Dignan
Amy Schumer’s signature raunchy and occasionally self-depreciative humour was left merely to standup for a long time. She featured the occasional jump the big screen, or small screen, through small cameos and her 2013 TV show Inside Amy Schumer. In 2015, however, Schumer popped up on the radar for a lot of the general movie going audience, myself included, with her surprise hit, Trainwreck. Her film grossed nearly $141 million worldwide, and was generally well received. Now, Schumer makes her big screen return with Snatched, which also marks the first on-screen appearance of Goldie Hawn in 15 years. It’s a film that had all the fundamentals to work, but one that looked oh so very bad. Yet, to my surprise, Snatched isn’t nearly as terrible as it very well could have been.
We follow the story of Emily (Schumer), who’s almost exactly the same character as Amy from Trainwreck, right down to personal attributes and everything. Her boyfriend, Michael (Randall Park), has dumped her, realising his music career is heading off in a completely different direction to Emily’s life. The two had plans to go on an exotic holiday to South America, exploring the country’s culture and nightlife, and as the tickets are non-refundable, Emily’s stuck with two tickets and nobody to go with. Enter Emily’s mum, Linda (Hawn). Leaving behind their comfort zones in an attempt to strengthen their slowly fading relationship, they head on overseas together, but it’s here where trouble arrives.
What was once paradise is now deemed hell for Emily and Linda, who, after meeting the mysterious and devilishly handsome James (Tom Batemen), quickly find themselves kidnapped. They’re being held for ransom against Emily’s stay at home brother, Jeffery (Ike Barinholtz), who’s determined to bring his family home safe. Murder, thrills, plot twists, unexpected cameos and jungle adventuring ensures, transforming Snatched from your run of the mill genre parody into an absurd, over the top and miraculously funny comedy. Given the premise, and even to some degree the cast (who, for the most part, can frequently be hit or miss – Schumer especially), it’s so nice to see this film come together the way it does. After the film’s forced, overacted opening, what follows is a harmless, pleasantly surprising, if not somewhat incoherent comedy.
The central plot at hand lacks focus, jumping from gag to gag with seemingly no end. Characters collapse, only to wake up in completely different locations, merely because the writer was unsure of how to actually get them there. The entirety of this movie plays out like a short series of unrelated mini-movies, our central characters constantly finding themselves in dark, confronting scenarios. Action is scarce, but the decision works in the film’s favour, as, when it is on screen, less is more. These aren’t action heroes, they’re regular every day folk who just so happen to accidentally shoot the bad guy’s son in the neck with a spear. Shit happens. It’s funny when it needs to be, but every set piece feels like it exists merely to set up a joke, rarely with any sort of satisfying payoff.
Director Jonathan Levine has a career full of surprise hits. Whether it’s in the form of moving, tear jerking cancer movies starring Joseph Gordon Levitt, or romantic zombie movies aimed at a teen audience, Levine delivers. He’s a filmmaker with remarkable talent, able to conjure up not just excellent performances, but genuine, authentic emotion. He, among other things, is the reason I had hope for Snatched, but disappointingly not one of the reasons it actually works. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing distinctly bad about Levine’s direction here. Everything works in his favour. It’s just, despite his obvious talent, everything in Snatched feels completely disposable. It’s a film that seems to direct itself, the actors doing their thing while basic wide angles are used in editing. It’s a fun, but ultimately unremarkable comedy unable to deliver anything fresh or exciting.
Schumer and Hawn share great on-screen chemistry. As do they with Barinholtz, who starts out as the film’s weakest link but soon evolves into its star player. Schumer and Hawn’s story gets tiresome fast, each joke seen a mile away, but Barinholtz’s wild antics remain largely unpredictable. The best parts are too good to spoil, and while his story arc takes somewhat of a back seat to Schumer and Hawn’s, it’s certainly the more fascinating, entertaining of the two. But that isn’t to say the central story is a bore. It’s not. For the most part, you know where everything’s headed, but there’s certain sincerity to it. The overall message and emotional bond can sometimes across as forced, the two overcoming their difficulties simply because the script demands it so, but it remains bittersweet in all the strangest of ways.
I didn’t hate Snatched, nor did I really love it. It’s a film that works fine in its own right, but one that really needs to work better than it does, given the talent involved. The film is in need of a desperate rewrite, one that’s able to tighten up the flow of the story and delve deeper into its two-dimensional, but somewhat sweet characterization. Snatched never bored me, I’ll give it that, and it’s far less generic than the trailers made it out to be, but you’re left with the feeling of being full without complete satisfaction, and that’s never the best feeling to have.
3 Stars (Barely...)
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