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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Review: Snatched (minimal spoilers)

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Snatched is the movie that people feared Trainwreck might be. In Amy Schumer’s first feature, we were fortunate to get a coherent, quirky narrative with charming sidebars. Not so lucky here.

The premise is not unfamiliar. It’s a fish-out-of-water wacky international romp with the added twist of it being daughter/mother instead of a mismatched romance.

Colin Higgins was the master of this form, and sure enough, he and this style of filmmaking were a big part of Goldie Hawn’s ascension to movie star with Foul Play in 1978. Michael Ritchie was another often-great director who worked this wire, as he did with Ms. Hawn in Wildcats. And perhaps another inspiration here was Hawn’s turn in Private Benjamin, directed by Howard Zieff.

But Snatched isn’t a straight play on the form. It has the good, and the bad, of Amy Schumer’s comic ideas and ambitions. I have no idea whether Katie Dippold was driving this screenplay, although she was on set through most of the production. One gets the feeling, watching this, that the script was followed and then they did a few for Amy, trying to find the topper that wasn’t on the page.

The first disastrous choice on this was hiring Goldie Hawn to play the straight man to Schumer’s comic character. It’s not what she does. She can play comedy or drama. She can even play “The Girl” when she likes. Watching Hawn play the stick in the mud while Schumer mugs for the camera is frustrating. But in this broad, active comedy, the Goldie Hawn we know and love shows up for a brief moment in the third act. Too little, too late.

A similar, though smaller mistake, is made by the utter waste of one of the great comic actresses of her generation, Joan Cusack. I guess the idea of her playing a woman who can’t speak because she cut out her tongue is, uh, amusing. And some of the best laughs in the film are from her character (stunt doubled) doing unexpected physical things. But she – and her partner character, Wanda Sykes – are never allowed the space to make the mark that they are more than capable of making. They aren’t allowed to be Stan & Ollie, because while Cusack is silently in the background, Sykes is talking, and she is very funny. But it never works as a duo act inside the body of this other film. (And of course, we all know that they biggest laugh from the silent character comes when they finally speak… which can’t happen after a throwaway joke about cutting out her own tongue.)

But the biggest problem is that Schumer is playing dumb… perhaps stupid. And she takes it to a level that doesn’t serve her well. It’s kind of like, “If you loved Amy in Trainwreck as a smart but insecure late-20s/early 30s woman with a fear of commitment who finally gets it together, you’ll REALLY LOVE Amy as a self-indulgent woman/child with a clinging, enabling mother who really learns nothing through the course of the movie and keeps us from seeing her mother fully blossom because she is taking up all the screen time.”

I had a hard time recovering from the “your boob is out” joke that happens around the end of the first act, but not just because it wasn’t very funny. And not because Ms. Shumer’s breast is anything less than lovely. But because it reeked of desperation in a way that make me cringe. I am not a fan of the few instances of male comics whipping out their penises either. However, when Jason Segel rolls it out, it isn’t just a sight gag, even though it always starts as a shock gag. There is a storytelling value to the choice (for better or worse). And in a movie like There’s Something About Mary, the show of scrotum is part of an entire gag. And the shock comedy boobs in that movie are Madga’s, whose breasts are hanging below her waist. That is a broad joke. Not, “Hey I showed my boob.” Even if the gag here was that they were dancing and the camera pulled back and she had one boob out, it would feel like a part of the storytelling, not a spit take.

So much of the movie feels like it is working a clear, fairly familiar idea, only to be sidetracked by someone trying really hard to be funny instead of trusting the storytelling. The side characters, including Cusack & Sykes, Chris Meloni, Ike Barinholtz and Bashir Salahuddin all deliver, but are not given enough room to be as memorable as they should be. Only Randall Park, at the top of the film, gets to complete his mission.

I am willing to take broad leaps with a film, particularly with a comedy, when it comes to structure and narrative flow. I am certainly willing to suspend disbelief. But I need a little flow. I want something more than a series of gags – even if some make me laugh – unless you are doing something drop-dead funny (see: Borat).

Pretty much every big laugh in this film, except for the opening, is one-off.

I am a fan of Jonathan Levine, going back to All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, which I saw in Toronto and thought was funny back then. He works hard to make the movie look good and to keep it flowing.

We never knowsthe power structure on a film unless we were there. So I don’t know who to blame. I just know that it was not good. And that is a shame, given the talent involved.

I probably should have known from the title… because I am pretty sure it is meant to be hysterically raunchy. I’m sure there is some context in which I would find that funny. But not this one.

One Response to “Review: Snatched (minimal spoilers)”

  1. Sideshow Bill says:

    I think Schumer is great, and Hawn is a legend but the trailer felt flat to me from the start. Shame that Cusack gets wasted, again. I’ll avoid this until I’m bored for something on cable one night.

    I am very happy to see you writing so much lately, Dave. It’s great and hopefully will keep this blog active. It’s one of the few movie forums I visit anymore because it’s not plagued with trolls. The reviews have been fun and I look forward to more, especially Dunkirk. Sorry you did see a good movie this time out. Still 7 months left in the year and much to look forward to.

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