Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Joan Cusack, Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes, Christopher Meloni
Runtime: 1 hr 31 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Some Nudity and Coarse Language)
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Opening Day: 3 August 2017
Synopsis: After her boyfriend dumps her on the eve of their exotic vacation, impetuous dreamer Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) persuades her ultra-cautious mother, Linda (Goldie Hawn) to travel with her to paradise. Polar opposites, Emily and Linda realize that working through their differences as mother and daughter - in unpredictable, hilarious fashion - is the only way to escape the wildly outrageous jungle adventure they have fallen into.
By virtue of its star power, ‘Snatched’ should be pure comedy gold. On one hand, you have one of this generation’s best comedians Amy Schumer, starring in her sophomore big-screen feature following Judd Apatow’s bawdy rom-com ‘Trainwreck’. On the other, you have comedy legend Goldie Hawn, starring in her first movie after a 15-year absence. And true enough, both Schumer and Hawn are funny to watch in their own right as well as alongside each other, playing a bickering mother-daughter couple who end up on an Eucador getaway together and land up being kidnapped for ransom. But it is also equally true that this vacation-from-hell caper is a lot less funny than you’re probably expecting it to be, saddled as it is by slack direction from ‘50/50’ and ‘Warm Bodies’ director Johnathan Levine and a lazy script from ‘The Heat’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ writer Katie Dippold that prefers silly gags, coarse banter and unexpected nudity over verbal wit and/or genuine pathos.
That’s a pity, because Schumer and Hawn demonstrate amply here their knack for making otherwise unlikeable characters uniquely amicable. After all, what’s there to like about a clueless egomaniac who is fired from her job as a sales assistant because she spends more time shopping around the store for clothes for her own vacation than helping out customers? Similarly, what’s there to like about a suburban neurotic who lives with her cats and practices helicopter parenting (even though she doesn’t realise it) over her adult children to the extent that she is unapologetic about expressing her motherly opinion by posting on her daughter’s Facebook wall (than say dropping her a PM)? Yet, Schumer makes the former bracing and savagely funny in an irresponsible, irresponsible and self-deprecating way; so too Hawn, who gives the latter endearing shadings with her occasional klutziness and self-effacing demeanour. Even better is their odd-couple chemistry, which is powerful enough to make you root for them despite their respective annoying idiosyncrasies.
Yet rather than let their character work drive the movie, director Johnathan Levine throws them into a series of slapstick set-pieces that are fitfully amusing but never quite acquire enough dramatic force or comic energy as a whole. One of the more memorable scenes prior to their kidnap has Schumer’s character Emily makeshift-douching herself in the ladies’ room at a bar, preparing for a possible hook-up with a tall, dark and handsome Brit. Another has Emily’s right boob slipping out of her dress just as she is about to bid him adieu for the night. The subsequent kidnapping plot is really just an excuse to throw them into a series of life-threatening scrapes, which they get out of either by somehow killing their attackers accidentally (one with a shovel and another with a harpoon) or with help from the other supporting players. And oh, by the way, there is also a scene of a local doctor extracting a vicious-looking tapeworm from Emily’s throat, which is entirely peripheral to the main story but is inserted just because it seems like a worthy gross-out sight gag.
In fact, Schumer and Hawn often get their routine scene-stolen by the other secondary actors/ characters. Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack play an amusing ‘platonic friends’ couple who warn Emily of how dangerous the country is and whom Emily calls for help when she and Linda gets into trouble, especially given how one of the couple is supposed a former special-ops agent who decided to cut out her tongue after her retirement so her enemies cannot force her to give up any information. Christopher Meloni makes a suitably dashing Indiana Jones-substitute who turns out to be less a valiant adventurer-explorer than a man (literally) out of his mind. And last not least, Ike Barinholtz and Bashir Salahuddin make a hilarious tag-team as Emily’s nerdy man-child brother Jeffrey and the beleaguered State Department official he harasses after a ransom call to get his family back home safely. As diverting as these may be, they are no doubt also distractions, and partly why the mother-daughter connection between Schumer and Hawn is never quite developed fully.
We haven’t yet started on the cultural stereotyping of its South American characters that is insensitive at best and racist at worst; but then again, such nuances are hardly worth quibbling in a movie that is content to trade in broad crowd-pleasing humour. Despite these flaws, there are probably enough laughs here to satisfy the less-demanding viewer simply looking for some summer fun, not least because of the bravura that Schumer and Hawn bring to this scattershot comedy. Yet it is equally true that these actresses are capable of, and deserve, much better than this studio assembly-line product that is not nearly as sharp, offbeat or clever as it thinks itself to be. And really, it’s not that hard to imagine ‘Snatched’ as being better than it is – the very first two scenes where Emily is fired from her job then dumped by her boyfriend show the witty comedy Schumer’s fans were probably expecting this to be; as for Hawn’s fans, they probably need no reminder of the lively bubbly comedian she can be vis-à-vis the straight-woman and scold she is forced to play next to Schumer here.
(Fitfully amusing as a typical R-rated summer studio comedy, ‘Snatched’ is nonetheless a waste of the sheer comedic life force of its two female stars by sacrificing character work to silly/ raunchy visual gags)
Review by Gabriel Chong