In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
The good news is that Amy Schumer, with her gift for comic timing and willingness to eschew glamour for humor, is a bona fide star. The bad news is that Snatched, her buddy-mom comedy (momedy?) leaves much to be desired. Yes, it’s often quite funny, and the bar for this sort of thing doesn’t need to be set very high, but after Trainwreck, a film centered by a grand comic performance from Schumer, I was hoping for a bit more. With a screenplay by Katie Dippold, a big screen return for Goldie Hawn, and Johnathan Levine behind the camera, Snatched had the potential to be something special. Maybe even something great. Unfortunately, it’s pretty standard stuff.
This isn’t to say it’s bad. Certainly the mom-daughter combos who go out to see it this Mother’s Day weekend will get exactly what they paid for, and even Dad is sure to get a few chucks out of it. I know when it eventually comes on TV while I’m visiting my parents and my mom says she wants to watch it but then goes upstairs to fall asleep while folding laundry while my dad, who doesn’t like Amy Schumer’s pro-gun control politics reads his paper in a huff but won’t change the channel “because your mother wants to watch” even though he’s secretly enjoying the movie, I won’t mind watching it again.
Schumer plays Emily. She is – you guessed it – a party girl who, despite her best intentions, is her own worst enemy. She drinks too much, shirks responsibility, and behaves selfishly. This leads to her musician boyfriend dumping her, and now she’s stuck with two non-refundable tickets to Ecuador and a bad case of vocal fry. As a last ditch effort to bring someone along, she invites her mother, played with delightfully spry energy by Goldie Hawn. Mom’s cautious way of living and square mentality are at first a hinderance to Emily’s mission to party, but when a chance encounter with a mysterious hunk gets the pair kidnapped by human traffickers, the powerful combination of Mom’s level-headedness and Emily’s mania is just what the duo needs to survive.
From here they run into a variety of characters played by a variety of comedy faces, and yadda yadda yadda, bing bang boom and wouldn’t you know it but Emily and her mother are actually quite similar in a lot of ways and all you need is love and now we all dance and twerk and have fun because life is funny like that, ya know?
Snatched is generally humorous, but even the most successful jokes pump the brakes before reaching their potential. There’s a running gag in which Schumer keeps accidentally killing people which threatens to be darkly hilarious. Yet, even though it’s framed as a recurring, escalating joke (which reaches its nadir in the final moments of the film), it actually only happens twice. Both times are funny enough, but comedy, as a rule, comes in threes. Or more. If the gag had been fully utilized and regarded with the gruesome calamity with which the characters in the film seem to experience it, it could have been next-level humor. And it’s not like Snatched is above going there. This is an R rated film and it earns its rating through and through, but it never uses it to its fullest potential.
Other gags are so rooted in fantasy that even the somewhat heightened world of Snatched couldn’t properly house them. Is it really possible to remove a tapeworm from somebody by dangling raw meat in front of their mouth? What if the tapeworm is made of unconvincing CGI? Google says no and that’s good enough for me.
Where the movie is most successful is in its casting. Schumer and Hawn have a lovely chemistry and a smooth rapport. They are fun to watch and are clearly having a blast together. They could honestly be real life mother and daughter, and through its this chemistry that much mileage is gained. Additional miles are picked up by Ike Barinholtz, who plays Emily’s agoraphobic brother. It’s a lame setup for a character, but his running phone battle with the American consulate yields plenty of good zingers.
Let’s be honest, you know if you’re the type of person who will dig this movie, and if you are, I encourage you to see it, but as a fan of Schumer, I wanted more. She’s capable of it. And as a fan of Levine, I sincerely hope he’s just paying bills. He’s a much more interesting filmmaker than this, and I don’t want him to be lost to the system.
Snatched opens in Philly theaters today.