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Amy Schumer is funny. (Understandably, your preference for Schumer's style of comedy could influence that statement, but by and large, she's recognized as a gifted comedian.) Goldie Hawn, also, is funny. So many people surrounding this duo in the new movie Snatched -- from Ike Barinholtz and Wanda Sykes to Christopher Meloni and Joan Cusack -- are funny.
But do you know one thing that's not funny? Kidnapping. It's really hard to find the humor in life-threatening situations. This becomes evident the minute Snatched switches its gears into its kidnapping subplot, the central hook of the overall show. It immediately becomes offsetting and inorganic to have characters cracking jokes when in danger. The tonal shifts derail Snatched, and make me wonder if this premise ever had a chance to get off the ground, no matter who starred in it.
Snatched is episodic in nature, so it more closely resembles the sketch comedy approach of the comedian's Inside Amy Schumer than it does the cohesive (if overlong) Trainwreck, the feature that helped catapult her to silver-screen stardom. Because of that, though, the movie can't figure out what it wants to be, and keeps making left turns until it finds a narrative track that fits. That never happens, but that doesn't mean that Snatched isn't funny in spots along the way.
Schumer plays Emily, a directionless loser who gets fired from her job and dumped by her boyfriend before you've even had time to settle into your seat. Compounding those problems is the fact that Emily has a non-refundable trip to Ecuador which she booked with her beau (Randall Park), forcing her to invite her mom, Linda (Goldie Hawn), along for the ride. So far, the movie has tried on numerous hats, from broken-hearted "Manhattan gal" comedy to heart-tugging mother-and-daughter relationship study to a fish-out-of-water Americans in South America laugher. There are funny moments in each of these, but we sit through them wondering what kind of film director Jonathan Levine (The Night Before, 50/50) and screenwriter Katie Dippold (The Heat, Ghostbusters) want Snatched to be.
Surprise! It's none of them. Or all of them. But mostly, the movie becomes a kidnapping thriller (comedy?) when Emily and Linda, while entertaining the charms of local hunk James (Tom Bateman), end up getting kidnapped by an Ecuadorian crime ring so that they can... well, that's never clear. But hilarity is supposed to ensue. It doesn't.
It's hard to totally dismiss Snatched, because there's just enough going on inside the lines to recommend a viewing -- eventually, though probably on a cable channel down the road. Amy Schumer has a strong grasp on the vulgar and self-deprecating humor that helped establish and expand her sizable audience, and at its best, Snatched plays right to that base. Supporting players make the most of the leeway they are given to create colorful and memorable characters, like Barinholtz's agoraphobic mama's boy, or Cusack's mute vacationer who has special ops training. They elevate Snatched whenever Levine cuts away from the kidnapping subplot, which is a real anchor dragging the whole comedy down (outside of a wild cameo by Christopher Meloni, who steals the entire movie in a role I don't want to give away here).
Admittedly, Snatched would be a different movie if it ditched the kidnapping plot that's shoehorned into the middle of this excursion. However, I'd argue it'd actually be a better movie. Amy Schumer has solid jokes about relationship strains and mother-daughter difficulties in this film's opening act, and Dippold nurtures a blistering running gag about living your life versus living your life so you can share experiences on social. Part of me wishes this uneven and scattershot movie dedicated more time to this cast exploring those issues, instead of following poor Schumer and Hawn on a hopelessly contrived adventure through the jungles of the Amazon. Keep these two ladies together. Just put them in a better scenario.