I laughed during one scene in Amy Schumer’s new comedy, “Snatched.” I can therefore not say that the movie is “wholly devoid of laughs.” Plus, that sort of phrasing feels mean, and there’s no reason to be mean. There is simply no way that Schumer, director Jonathan Levine, writer Katie Dippold, or anyone else involved in the project intended to make an unfunny film, even if it worked out that way. Plus, while I only laughed during one scene, I smiled during others (if only a little).
The most basic problem with “Snatched” is this – it is regularly almost, but not quite, funny. It is a movie full of setups to jokes and starts of jokes and beginnings of shenanigans, nearly all of which kind of fizzle out before really getting to anything that would make someone laugh.
Save Schumer, each of the actors, from Goldie Hawn to Ike Barinholtz to Joan Cusack, Wanda Sykes, and Christopher Meloni, are given characters with a single identifying feature that they play over and over again. This takes whatever may have been funny in concept and deadens it.
Barinholtz is Jeffrey, brother to Schumer’s Emily and a (maybe) agoraphobic (definite) nerd. Consequently, he gets a couple of tossed off jokes which involve being a fan of Harry Potter, speaking Klingon, and “Game of Thrones.” Intent aside, these jokes come off as mean-spirited. They are direct attacks against people who like such things for no particular reason other than somewhere, somewhere, thought it might be amusing to poke fun at this particular group. Every time he’s on screen, the movie ends up feeling like a bully.
More funny, but also relatively one-note is Cusack’s Barb, a former special ops member who cut out her tongue so she couldn’t be made to speak after she retired. Then there is Sykes’ Ruth, whose only job is to tell us about Barb having been special ops. Cusack and Sykes are good enough that they make these supporting characters quirky and enjoyable even if they stop being funny long before the credits roll.
The real travesty in the film is Hawn’s Linda. She is the mother of Schumer’s Emily and Barinholtz’s Jeffrey, but Hawn is one of the few actors in the movie who makes their character three dimensional. Some of this is in the script as Linda actually gets to offer up some wise advice/concerns (along with less wise bits), and some is just Hawn being able to add depth and pathos to this woman who has, for years, shut herself off from much of the world. Even if this last is Linda’s identifying feature, in the hands of Hawn it feels like more. As good as she may be as the character, what this also means is that Linda sometimes feels like she is in a different movie from everyone else (a problem made more egregious when she gets to launch into a longer monologue).
As for Schumer’s Emily, she isn’t exactly well-rounded, but she nearly feels like a human being. Hapless and hopeless, Emily is a sloppy drunk with no future and an amazing ability to accidentally cause mayhem amongst the South American locals who are trying to kidnap her and Linda. She may grow a little over the course of the film, but one would be hard-pressed to make the case that she is a person who might succeed in the world at large following her harrowing experiences.
Those experiences and that kidnapping plot feel more than a little silly, but not in a good way. They are the thinnest of excuses to get Schumer and Hawn’s characters out into the jungle and to keep them there and on the run. I only hope and pray that if anything like that ever happens to me I’m given more help by our government than the two women get (even if Bashir Salahuddin’s State Department official is one of the film’s highlights).
In the end, “Snatched” is a terribly unfunny comedy which has ensnared a talented cast. It is a movie constantly on the verge of getting better but which never does. And, as wonderful as it may be to see Goldie Hawn on the big screen once more, she deserves better. We all do. Even the kidnappers.
photo credit: 20th Century Fox