In Snatched, Amy Schumer plays Emily Middleton. Emily Middleton is, for all intents and purposes, Amy Schumer, or at least the on-stage-and-screen persona that she continues to exploit. Like most popular big-screen comic performers, Schumer is dedicated to consistency. She doesn’t play characters; she plays herself, dialled up or down, or, in the case of this movie, flatlining.
This is the problem with all Schumer’s film and television projects, and, to a lesser extent, her stand-up. The humour is reflexively defensive. She’s flaunting her perceived inadequacies before her critics do. She taps into veins of sexual openness, body positivity, and shamelessness, but to close herself down, not open those subjects up. I know what I am, so you don’t need to tell me. But who wants to tell her, these days? Schumer has been at the forefront of popular culture for years. People either like her, or they don’t. Those who pay to see her on stage and at the movies aren’t interested in wielding her weight, or her appearance, or her bedroom proclivities, as weapons. She’s baring her fangs, but nobody is attacking. The awkwardness isn’t hers – it’s the audience’s.
In the case of Snatched, Schumer is so eager to bury herself under self-deprecating gags that there’s barely a movie to dig free. Emily is fired from her retail job and dumped by her rock-n’-roll boyfriend in the first couple of scenes. Both events are funny, but the rest of the movie isn’t, mostly because each subsequent joke is a reiteration of the first two. Emily’s so self-absorbed and obnoxious that nobody wants to be around her, least of all the audience. She has a non-refundable trip to Ecuador already bought and paid for, and now a ticket going spare. Her so-called friends don’t want to know. So, in desperation, she turns to her mother, Linda, who doesn’t really want to know either.
Linda is played by Goldie Hawn, who has been funny for half a century, but is inexplicably stale here. This is the first time we’ve seen Hawn at the movies since The Banger Sisters in 2002, and it’s hard to imagine what it was about Snatched that she found enticing. The movie has no real interest in the silliness or the effortless charisma that made her a star in the first place. Mostly, what it finds funny about Hawn is how she relates to Schumer: She’s older. Linda’s an uppity busybody whose function is to play anxious foil to her daughter’s childish excesses. Her being responsible, long-divorced and devoted to her children is the joke. Even Goldie Hawn couldn’t make that funny.
The trip to Ecuador starts as slapstick comedy and becomes, quickly and without much thought, intergenerational buddy-action. Linda and Emily are kidnapped by a clique of South American baddies, held hostage, and forced to run for their lives through the Amazon. There’s a running gag about Emily accidentally killing people, one with a shovel and another with a harpoon, but it’s treated with the same amount of seriousness as her getting caught washing her vagina in the hotel sink. There’s that humour, again. A lot of the movie’s punchlines cursorily acknowledge racism, so that when it starts offing dark-skinned, funnily-accented thugs, the audience gets the joke. The vagina thing works the same way. Schumer washing her vagina lets us know that, yes, it probably stinks. But I wasn’t sniffing, and I can’t imagine anyone else was, either.
What, exactly, is Goldie Hawn doing here? It’s frustrating to see her so cruelly denied the opportunity to actually be Goldie Hawn; Linda is so bogged down by neuroses (we meet her scouring the internet for local sex offenders) that she’s less an actual character that a string of stereotypical motherly quirks. All the silliness you hoped she’d bring to this movie is supplied elsewhere: by a couple of poolside paranoiacs, in particular, played by Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack, the latter as a former spec-ops agent who has hacked out her tongue so she can’t be broken under torture. Hawn’s role in their introductory scene is to apply sun cream to Schumer’s shoulders. Come to think of it, that’s her role for most of the movie, in one way or another.
The kidnapping plot is kick-started when Emily trips and falls into a honeytrap set by Tom Bateman’s hunky adventurer, and the joke there, unsurprisingly, is that the only reason a man so handsome would be interested in Schumer is to use her as ransom bait. If only he knew what Linda and Emily had left on the other side of the world; Emily’s nerdy stay-at-home brother, Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz), whose frantic negotiations with a State Department bureaucrat (Bashir Salahuddin) are the movie’s only consistent source of laughs – and even then, only because said bureaucrat seemed about as fed up with this shit as I did.
The laziness and the sloppiness of Snatched are so apparent all the way through that there’s some fun to be had in simply checking the boxes. Here’s the obligatory joke about misheard accents. There’s Linda’s fuddy-duddy poolside outfit. (“You look like a beekeeper.”) Oh, look – Christopher Maloni is playing a grizzled Amazonian explorer. I wonder where that could be going. The only time the movie surprises you is when it veers into body-horror territory for a lengthy, oddly vivid extraction of a tapeworm. That slimy lifeform is the best thing to squirm out of Schumer’s mouth in the entire running time.
The director here is Jonathan Levine, and the screenwriter is Katie Dippold, who worked on both The Heat and Ghostbusters for Paul Feig. Both of those movies are superior to Snatched, by a significant margin, and when your movie is less enjoyable that Ghostbusters, something has evidently gone wrong. Snatched is a movie about a hostage scenario, but it mostly feels like one. It’ll kidnap you for 90 minutes and ransom you for the price of a ticket. Don’t pay up. It isn’t worth the expense.
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