Cinema Dispatch: Snatched

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Snatched and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Jonathan Levine

Despite being one of the big up and coming comedians for the past few years, I’ve never had any real exposure to Amy Schumer’s work.  Whether it’s her stand-up, her show Central, or even her previous movies like Trainwreck, she just never managed to come into my radar and I haven’t had much inclination to seek her stuff out.  As far as this movie, I GUESS I’m interested to see how it turns out, not just so I can finally get in the loop with someone worth keeping an eye on, but because she also managed to get Goldie Hawn to costar who hasn’t been active in quite some time!  That said, it looks to be another raunchy comedy (and not a particularly interesting one) which we certainly have plenty of already, but then again it’s never easy to tell just how well the jokes will land or how strong the interplay is between the leads just from trailers alone.  Does this manage to be a standout film starring one of Hollywood’s rising star next to one of Hollywood’s best, or will this turn out just as bad as Dirty Grandpa?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) getting dumped by her longtime boyfriend (Randall Park) just before they take their non-refundable trip to Ecuador; leaving her with a broken heart as well as an extra ticket that none of her friends (or even her landlord) wants to take her up on.  While visiting her overbearing and obsessively cautious mother Linda (Goldie Hawn), she finds an old photo album that shows what an exciting life she led before having kids and she decides to take her on the trip.  It takes a bit of cajoling, but Linda finally agrees and they head to South America where Emily meets some suave mother fucker (Tom Bateman) that gives her the perfect vacation experience and promises to take her AND her mother out for even more fun the next day.  Turns out that he’s the bait for a kidnapping ring which puts a HUGE damper on their vacation and they now have to find a way to not only escape but find a way back to the American embassy before they get into even MORE trouble.  While this is going on, Emily’s brother Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz) is doing what he can to get the State Department to Seal Team 6 their asses out of there, but with his agoraphobia and poor social skills, he may not be up to the task despite everything that’s at stake… or is he?  Can these two survive not only the harsh jungle environment but survive having to deal with each other for that long?  What wacky supporting characters will they manage to run into along the way?  Wait, is this seriously from the same person who wrote Ghostbusters!?

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“I saw Taken.  If we just keep our heads down and don’t rock the boat, someone will come and save us.”     Mom, our Liam Neeson is your thirty year old son who can’t even face the neighborhood dog.  We are screwed!”     “Now why do you have to talk about your brother that way?”

Yeah, don’t expect a whole lot of in depth analysis here because this movie is pretty much a big ol’ pile of meh.  The story is pretty bland, the execution is competent but not particularly inspired, and the acting is… well it’s really good for the material that they’re given, but the material itself drags everything back down to being meh; all of which is rather disheartening considering how much I enjoyed Ghostbusters which was also written by Katie Dippold.  There are parts of this that feel genuinely inspired, mostly pertaining to Goldie Hawn’s relationship with Amy Schumer and the smattering of supporting characters that pop in and out of the picture, but everything else just feels like it’s on auto-pilot.  This is yet another example of a high concept comedy with all the bells and whistles that can be milked out of the studio such as last year’s Central Intelligence, but the degree to which it seems that no one cared about connecting the dots or maintaining a strong narrative structure utterly ruins any comedy that can be mined from such an outlandish premise; something that makes this have less in common with Central Intelligence than it does Keeping Up with the Joneses, and NO ONE wants to have anything in common with Keeping Up with the Joneses!  Admit it!  You forgot that movie existed until I just brought it up!

 

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They’re still working on that female Expendables movie, right?

The thing is that we’ve already seen this movie done better all the way back in 2012 with The Guilt Trip; a film that has the exact same premise but approaches it from a vastly different perspective.  Let’s start with what both movies get right.  They both star two very likable actors (Seth Rogan and Barbara Streisand in The Guilt Trip and Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn in Snatched), they both deal with issues between a parent and their grown child, and there are some decent cameos by other famous people throughout.  The big difference between the two comes down to style over substance; probably the most cliché of criticisms that you can make, but stick with me here.  The Guilt Trip does not have extended party sequences, it does not have half-baked action set pieces, and it did not tear itself away from the main characters for any reason.  Now some of these can be seen as positive aspects of Snatched which we’ll get into in a bit, but because The Guilt Trip does none of those, it has more time to develop the two leads and REALLY dig down into the relationship that they have.  Hell, one of the most impressive parts of that movie is that the characters ACTUALLY grow and change throughout the movie instead of just saving it for the end of the second act (a cliché that Snatched indulges in) which allows for a much richer and nuanced story.  Snatched just doesn’t have that as it prefers to use the fantastic premise that it has (how does a grown child relate to their parents when both are constantly lying to each other and themselves) to just simply be a frame upon which raunchy humor and mostly unimpressive action can be hung on.

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“Mom, why are you handing me a box of foreshadowing?”     “You might need it later!”

The relationship between Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn isn’t the only thing that gets the short shrift here as the unfocused narrative also means the big flashy premise of them being kidnapped is so poorly handled that it’s ultimately what sinks this movie; more so than the ho-hum humor.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen bad guys THIS incompetent in a movie who presumably have been kidnapping people for some time but can’t handle an undisciplined and uncoordinated white girl and her mom with bad knees.  The movie takes time out to let us know JUST how dangerous these kidnappers are, yet nothing they do in this movie makes any sense.  Fine, let’s say the FIRST time they escape was complete dumb luck.  That doesn’t explain how EVERY OTHER TIME they catch up with these two that they don’t kill them immediately and how it is they keep giving them REALLY stupid chances to escape once more.  The entire third act of this movie is just an unbelievable (and not particularly funny) mess of a climax that ends this whole crisis on a rather unsatisfying note.

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“That was pretty darn easy!”     “I know, right?  We should TOTALLY get jobs as super spies!”

So if we don’t get an exciting (or even all that engaging) kidnapping story and the script doesn’t provide enough time for the Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer relationship to live up to its potential, what does the movie leave us with?  Well, what every other raunchy action-comedy does; random jokes, embarrassing character moments, and an abundance of secondary characters.  Some of it works okay, but most of it is either not particularly funny or straight up unbearable.  Amy Schumer’s character is really hard to like even when the movie is trying to give her more depth and dimension, and Goldie Hawn just comes off like a cartoon character.  You’re mileage will vary with these two and their shtick, but it took way too long for them to come off as ACTUALLY human instead of mostly unfunny caricatures played by actors who should be given better material to work with.  Now to be fair, this DOES seem to be trying to aim at a female audience considering how much of the cast (both main and supporting) are not only women but older women who have a hard enough time getting into ANY movie nowadays (unless it’s as a grandmother or something), so maybe the humor in this just isn’t targeted for me which is fair I guess.  Will women find a scene of Amy Schumer washing her vagina in a public bathroom funny?  I’m certainly not the one to answer that question, but I can tell you that it didn’t do a whole lot for me.

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“Oh hi!  I didn’t see you come in!”

There are positive aspects of this, albeit few and far between.  It’s fairly well shot for a comedy like this and the locations are interesting throughout.  Some of the jokes DO land and it has a very strong supporting cast; particularly Christopher Meloni who’s Indiana Jones shtick is on just long enough to keep from overstaying it’s welcome and he exits the film in SPECTACULAR fashion.  I ended up growing to like Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack as the VERY intense best friends who show up every once in a while, but the movie is never quite sure what to do with them; especially at the end where you’d THINK their Very Particular Set of Skills would have come in handy but the movie just kinda sends them away instead.  Ike Barrinholtz as Amy Schumer’s agoraphobic brother is fine though I think his shtick with Bashir Salahuddin as a State Department official goes on just a tad too long.  When the movie FINALLY gets around to addressing the issues between Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn, it DOES manage to hit home which makes for a decent payoff at that point in the film, but I honestly wish this movie was focused more on that than trying to split itself up in so many different directions.

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“What does Gank mean?”     “It means you need to provide backup to one of your teammates and kill their opponent!”     “Well that seems awfully violent!”

There’s a lot about this movie that I wanted to like, but it just felt like another run of the mill raunchy comedy and we’ve been getting WAY too many mediocre ones recently.  It’s certainly better than Bad Grandpa considering this one didn’t piss me off, but there’s nothing in here that’s particularly memorable and it’s certainly not worth seeing in the theaters.  MAYBE check it out when it gets a home release, but you’d hardly be missing much if you skip it altogether.  Now if these two showed up in the next Ghostbusters movie, THEN we’d have something!

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