It’s fair to say that I have something of a mixed relationship with the work of Amy Schumer. Whilst I absolutely loved 2015’s Trainwreck, I had a much less enjoyable experience with the comedian’s recent Netflix stand-up special, finding it to be uninspired and vulgar for vulgar’s sake. Now back in the realm of feature film making, Schumer is teaming up with living legend Goldie Hawn in (amazingly) her first film appearance since 2002’s The Banger Sisters. Would this seemingly unlikely pairing be able to conjure some comedic greatness in Snatched?
On the whole, I have to say that whilst greatness is definitely not conjured, there are certainly enough glimpses of fun to keep the picture from being a complete bust. Snatched tells the story of Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer), a recently dumped and recently fired ‘semi-hot mess’ who persuades her introverted, cat lady mother Linda (Goldie Hawn) to go with her on a pre-booked, non-refundable vacation to Ecuador. After a day or so in paradise, Emily and Linda find themselves outside of the comfort of their resort and are kidnapped, freeing themselves in Colombia and left with the task of making their way to nearest U.S. Consulate in Bogata. With all the genre requisite oddball encounters along the way, the narrative proceeds in a sort of slapstick, comedy action vein that can be described as hit and miss at best.
The peculiar thing about Snatched is that it provoked me to laugh out loud on more than a handful of occasions, but these moments of humour all take place in the first 20 establishing minutes of the picture, before the characters get to South America. This is, perhaps, due to the fact that Amy Schumer’s own brand of comedy can be identified most clearly in these early scenes. Emily’s interactions with her boss, her boyfriend and her mother pre-vacation are all very ‘Trainwreck’ in the best possible sense, sharp but silly humour that feels very relatable and pleasantly familiar. However, it is when the narrative moves in to madcap jungle escapades complete with poorly developed villains that the film starts to fall apart for me. It’s a shame that a movie full of funny people, with a really promising opening quarter, is unfortunately killed by having to adhere to the conventions of a cliched escape adventure. Rather than continuing more of the same hilarious observational type comedy displayed in the first twenty minutes, the film falls in to a groove of Emily and Linda running from one bad guy to the next, checking off all the classic ‘jungle slapstick’ moments like snapping branch vines, brushes with creepy crawlies, and more general slapstick that just isn’t my cup of tea. With Schumer and Hawn on screen, there certainly are a few enjoyable moments and set pieces scattered across the remainder of the movie, but you can get the picture when I say that the amount of times I chuckled in the the first twenty minutes were equal to the amount of times I chuckled in the proceeding eighty. Snatched starts of strong, but makes the mistake of choosing slapstick adventure over the more subtle comedic talents of its leads and supporting stars.
Though playing a character written by Katie Dippold this time round instead of herself, Amy Schumer brings much of her trademark self deprecating humour to the role of Emily. Schumer has proven herself to be something of marmite figure in entertainment over the years, receiving both strong love and strong hate in equal measure. Give or take the odd question stand up routine, I happen to be in the love category, and Schumer proves to be a great lead in the film, hampered through no fault of her own by the unfortunate direction of the narrative which prevents her from revelling in her best comedic style. In her first big screen appearance for fifteen years, it feels like the wonderful Goldie Hawn is stuck in the position of deserving better yet still getting a more involved and versatile role than the majority of 71 year old actresses in Hollywood right now. As Emily’s mom Linda, Hawn plays second fiddle to Schumer’s more over the top antics, but she proves that she’s still a commanding screen presence and certainly gives the film a spark of star quality. The pair stare a great, natural feeling chemistry together, it’s good to have her back!
Two notable supporting roles are given by Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack as Barb and Ruth, an oddball couple with secret service pasts who pop up sporadically throughout the narrative to both help and hinder when needed. Barb and Ruth provide some of the bigger laughs in the second half of the picture, and though one could argue that they are funny but not quite necessary in terms of plot, I’m never going to be disappointed with two of my favourites performing together.
Overall, Snatched is an action-comedy that, in truth, would probably have been more enjoyable had the action been left out. Of course, that’s a facetious statement given the crux of the narrative, but one can’t help but feel that the cast assembled, Schumer, Hawn, Sykes, Cusack, etc. spend more time jumping off rooftops and swinging on vines than they do getting to be funny, and it feels like something of a wasted opportunity. Don’t let the internet troll hate of Amy Schumer fool you in to thinking this film is a complete bomb, because it isn’t. Unfortunately it just isn’t the kind of picture that puts its stars to best use.