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Don't Pay the Ransom

Amy Schumer
Amy Schumer
20th Century Fox
 90 Minutes
Rated: R
Directed byJonathan Levine
Starring: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn

Amy Schumer is a very funny woman. Goldie Hawn has been a very funny woman for more years than Amy Schumer has been alive. But not even the talents of Schumer and Hawn, plus a couple of other funny women, Wanda Sykes and Joan Cuscak, can turn straw into gold. More specifically, despite plenty of improvised lines and bits of business, these very funny women can’t turn the clichéd script and lackluster direction of the so-called action comedy Snatched into a good movie.


Snatched is based on an interesting premise. Schumer plays Emily Middleton, an insecure loser in life and love who book a non-refundable resort vacation in Ecuador only to lose both her job and her boyfriend in rapid succession. Frustrated, Emily turns to her somewhat estranged mother Linda (Hawn) and suggests they make the trip a mother/daughter bonding experience. Linda, a compulsive worrywart with a houseful of cats and a 40-year-old agoraphobic live-in son Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz), finally agrees to go along.


Despite the predictable bickering between mother and daughter, things seem to go well for Emily, when she has a fantastic night out with a dashing Englishman (Tom Bateman) she meets at the resort where she and Linda are staying. But the next day, when the three of them go out on a sightseeing tour of the countryside, things go sour, when they are kidnapped by a bunch of goons working for a local drug lord (Oscar Jaenada), who then demands a ransom from Jeffrey.


This protracted set-up takes up approximately the first half of the 90-minute movie. Snatched, however, seems considerably longer than 90 minutes, with the last half consisting of a protracted series of escapes, chases, recaptures, and re-escapes by the women as they make their way through the South American rain forest. They are aided considerably in their efforts by the fact that the drug lord and his henchmen are the clumsiest, most inept criminals since the time Moe, Larry, and Curly tried to rob a bank. Director Jonathan Levine seems to think that having Emily and Linda accidentally (but fatally) shoot a number of these henchmen is somehow hilarious. It’s not.


While on the subject of moments in Snatched that aren’t in the least bit funny, in an extended storyline that goes absolutely nowhere in terms of laughter, brother Jeffrey continues to plead for help with the U.S. State Department, where an unctuous bureaucrat refuses to listen. Jeffrey’s character is the most annoying in the entire movie, so repeating an unfunny bit of business involving him several times doesn’t make the film any easier to stomach.


Almost without exception, the set pieces in Snatched fail and fail miserably. Audiences are not supposed to notice glaring plot implausibilities in an escapist film, but it’s fairly hard not to notice the complete lack of government interest in the kidnapped women until very late in the movie, an event that, in real life, would have triggered an enormous investigation, resulting in a massive manhunt, or, in this case, a massive “womanhunt.” While some films would have taken advantage of this plot hole to concoct a hilarious rescue scenario involving the characters themselves, Snatched merely has them running around, acting stupidly for the last half hour of the film.


The talent behind the camera in Snatched simply doesn’t seem to know what is or is not funny. Several elaborate bits, such as the introduction of a mysterious jungle guide played by Christopher Meloni, have elaborate set-ups culminating in punch lines that fall completely flat. Snatched was directed by Jonathan Levine, whose last effort, The Night Before, had the benefit of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg touching up his work. Here, the script is by Katie Dippold, who failed to properly mine the potential of the Ghostbusters remake. With both a director and a screenwriter who need to prop the other one up, Snatched founders badly at times.


Fortunately, the film does have two extremely talented comic stars, who make it watchable and even rather funny at times. The first half hour of Snatched, before the women arrive in Ecuador, is downright hilarious in a few places, thanks largely to Schumer’s improvisational talents. The scene in which her boyfriend (Randall Park) breaks up with her on the eve of the trip is a minor comic gem. Earlier, the opening scene of the movie, in which Schumer carries on in a ritzy women’s clothing store, one which viewers soon learn is her place of employment (albeit not for long), is nearly as good.


Schumer undoubtedly improvises much of her dialogue in the movie and director Levine cooperates by essentially simply pointing the camera at her and letting her go. In a better-scripted movie, this camera hogging would detract from the central plot, but here there’s little to detract from. Instead, we get scenes that play like they could come directly from one of Schumer’s typical stand-up routines. For those who enjoy her brand of comedy, the results are reasonably entertaining.


Goldie Hawn isn’t known for her stand-up routines, but she does have the ability to play off her co-stars. Here, she proves a perfect match for Schumer, timing her comeback retorts perfectly (as shown in the scene below). And there’s still a bit of Hawn’s famous pixie charm. In her last few movies, Hawn showed her abilities as part of a comic ensemble. Unfortunately, her ensemble in this film is limited to Schumer.


Despite the two stars’ best efforts, Snatched lags badly in too many areas, especially in the later parts of the movie, to be fully enjoyable. However, Snatched may be that rare film whose inevitable sequel (if the stars are willing) fares better than the film itself. Schumer and Hawn have great chemistry together, and the mother/daughter dynamic has infinite possibilities. They will, however, have a better chance at success if the movie’s writer and director get snatched away in the interim. 

In this scene,  Goldie Hawn gives Amy Schumer a dog whistle to use in an emergency.

Read other reviews of Snatched:


Snatched (2017) on IMDb