Snatched | Jonathan Levine | May 12, 2017
Snatched, the latest comedy from director Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Night Before, Warm Bodies), begins with main character Emily (Amy Schumer) getting fired from her retail job. She’s surprisingly alright with it considering that she’s about to go on the trip of a lifetime with her boyfriend Michael (Randall Park). Except that right before the trip, Michael breaks up with Emily, ultimately ruining their plans for a non-refundable trip to Ecuador, so that he can enjoy the life as a budding rock star.
Emily is unable to convince any of her friends to join her last minute and during her understandably depressed state, she returns home for the first time in a while to see her mom, Linda (Goldie Hawn). The visit only makes matters worse, as Linda is an uptight worrywart and Emily doesn’t want to deal with her agoraphobic brother Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz), who is also living at home.
It’s during this visit where Emily comes across her mom’s old scrapbook of photos and concert tickets where she realizes how much fun her mom used to have. After this discovery, it’s clear to Emily that she has found the perfect suitor for that non-refundable ticket: her mom.
If you’ve seen the trailer or just know the general plot, it’s shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that these two Americans come to Ecuador and ultimately are kidnapped for ransom money. I won’t spoil the details of that, but what you’re expecting is what you get. There’s not much surprise in there. You couldn’t find two people that belong less in South America, yet here they are, finding themselves in the wackiest of situations, fighting for their lives.
Levine has quite an interesting collection of films in his filmography, with 50/50, Warm Bodies, The Night Before, and The Wackness. He’s offered a wide variety of story types, but looking at all his films, you notice that there’s a great deal of heart and emotional layers to them, even if the subject is surrounded by a comedic presence. The sad thing this time around is that Snatched has none of the heart that really made something like 50/50 a success.
Snatched is going for broke on the comedic presence of Schumer and the long-awaited return of Goldie Hawn, but the pairing never wins you over in a natural, authentic way. You never buy into genuinely caring about their relationship because the film doesn’t try to earn it. Instead, you’re left with sparingly funny comedic bits that do result in a few chuckles every so often, but everything in between feels so haphazard.
However, there is some positivity that poked its head out of this ultimately very silly film. Bashir Salahuddin goes all in as a state department agent who has to deal with the insufferable phone calls of Jeffrey about rescuing his mom and sister. Both he and Barinholtz go all in on the insanity of it all, and their childlike (most likely improvised) banter results in some juvenile, but genuine chuckles. Another one of the funniest performances of the film comes from Randall Park, which is a major red flag considering his lone scene comes within the first 15 minutes of the film.
There’s one particular moment where the aggravated kidnapper (Óscar Jaenada) vents his frustrations of these two Americans taking advantage of the foreign land while gawking at the native people. It was a rare glimmer of insight that actually made you stop and think about this from a different perspective, but it was of course glossed over, and the film returned to its absurd nature. It was completely out of place practically because, well, it actually seemed well thought out.
For what is supposed to be a breezy summer comedy, its funny moments are too few and far between to make up for the lack of heart and spastic editing. The script, written by Katie Dippold (Ghostbusters (2016), The Heat) leaves something to be desired on both the comedic and dramatic end, leaving Levine with a film that lacks any signature stamp of direction. Schumer’s presence isn’t enough to save it all, and it’s a shame – and a shock – that Goldie Hawn wasted her big comeback for this, a film that you’ll forget about the minute you head for the exits. All you have is 90 minutes of your time snatched from you.