Snatched: Loose Grip, by David Bax

12 May

Jonathan Levine’s Snatched rushes at breakneck speed through its first 30 or 40 minutes, getting all of its characters and situations into place for the plot proper to kick in. Fortunately, this is executed via a series of funny vignettes that prove once again what a sharp comedic performer star Amy Schumer is; especially noteworthy are a couple of back to back scenes of her character, Emily, first getting fired (for doing more shopping than working at the store where she’s meant to be a salesperson) and then immediately getting dumped (by her rising star rocker boyfriend who leaves no doubts about his aspirations for more “pussy”). Plus, given the endless, slapdash affair that was Schumer’s last vehicle, Trainwreck, some narrative expedience is welcome. Snatched is not likely to linger long in anyone’s memory but it’s a competent and reliably funny diversion that will painlessly kill 90 minutes on Mother’s Day.

Newly single, Emily finds herself with an extra ticket for the trip to Ecuador she was about to take with her boyfriend. Taking pity on her mother, Linda (Goldie Hawn), whose life consists of looking after her cats and her agoraphobic, adult, live-in son (Ike Barinholtz), Emily decides to bring her along. Once there, Emily spends a couple of days convincing her mother to venture out of the safety of the resort. Once they do, they are almost immediately kidnapped. From there, Snatched becomes an adventurous caper/female bonding tale, detailing their various escapes and mishaps.

The presence of Goldie Hawn should be the biggest draw here but, sadly, Levine seems reluctant to make use of the committed goofiness that’s always made her so memorable. She’s the straight man. Or, in the terms of standard, male-centric studio comedies, hers is the “girlfriend” role. She gets a few funny lines, like her insistence that it should take two years to plan a vacation, and at least one brief physical gag, a spit take that she makes the most of. But the lion’s share of the comic material goes to Schumer and, perhaps even more so, the supporting cast. Barinholtz and Bashir Salahuddin (as a federal agent) are an unlikely comedy team, while the true MVPs are Christopher Meloni (as a grizzled expat who’s not as capable as he seems) and Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack (as a vacationing couple of “platonic friends”). Most of the jokes land and, with the exception of an ill-advised attempt at gross-out humor involving a CGI tapeworm, there’s nothing to make you cringe.

If the comedic content of Snatched rests comfortably at par, the action falls somewhere below it. Levine lacks even the loose aptitude for kinetic physicality that we saw from Paul Feig with Spy or Todd Phillips with the surprisingly violent The Hangover Part III. Thus, scenes like the ladies jumping onto the bed of a moving pick-up truck to get away from their captors are more utilitarian than thrilling.

At least the action scenes give us some of the few moments of true dark comedy. Snatched does have a body count and another of Hawn’s best bits is an exchanged revolving around the assumption that once a person has taken a life, even by accident, it should be easier to do so again. Still, not since 30 Minutes or Less has a movie found so little darkness in a premise that ought to be full of it.

It feels necessary and yet completely obvious to point out the xenophobia of Snatched. On the one hand, it’s so baked into the premise that it’s difficult to even be bothered by it in the moment. I mean, you know what you’re in for when you walk into the theater with this one. On the other hand, it’s a shame Levine and screenwriter Katie Dippold couldn’t have been more self-aware about it. There are moments of this, like Emily’s patronizing line about Ecuador, as a vacation destination, being “safe but not too safe.” And there’s a wickedly funny comeuppance to Emily and Linda’s automatic willingness to trust Meloni’s character simply because he’s another American. Alas, the smarter and darker version of Snatched is not the one these folks assembled to create. The one they did make, though, is fine. For what it is.

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