Thursday, May 11, 2017

Amazon Women: Schumer and Hawn make inspired team in lightweight "Snatched"


Snatched (2017)
91 min., rated R.

When it was first announced that Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn were pairing up to play daughter and mother in an upcoming film project, it seemed so right and pretty inspired. Even more exciting was the news that 71-year-old Hawn would finally be making her way back to the big screen in her first lead role in fifteen years since playing opposite Susan Sarandon in 2002’s “The Banger Sisters.” With such a can't-miss prospect to see these two generations of blonde funny women working together, R-rated adventure-comedy "Snatched" could have been even more, but it does carve out a worthwhile niche for itself not unlike many of Hawn's comedies from the '80s and '90s. As a chance to see the winning on-screen compatibility between these two leads, it's lightweight but loosely played and frequently funny, which for a comedy is all you really need it to be. Schumer and Hawn make effortless comedic foils and are clearly having such a ball that their fun becomes infectious even for those who weren't there on set. As long as one takes into account what the goals of the filmmakers were, "Snatched" is a minor summer-launching surprise.

Fired from her retail job and dumped by her musician boyfriend (Randall Park) all in the same day, directionless thirtysomething Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) is in a state of flux. Her biggest problem now is finding a plus-one for the nonrefundable trip to Ecuador she booked as a romantic getaway. Heartbroken from her unforeseen break-up, Emily goes to visit divorced mother Linda (Goldie Hawn) and convinces Mom that she could use another adventure outside of staying home with her two cats and nerdy, agoraphobic adult son Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz). Not long after arriving at the resort, Emily meets a charming hunk named James (Tom Bateman), who shows interest at the bar and shows her a good night. In the morning, James offers to take both Emily and Linda on a day trip to see some local sights, but right before Linda’s guard goes back up, it’s too late. Mother and daughter realize that they have been kidnapped by a Colombian crime lord (Oscar Jaenada) who tries holding them for ransom before they escape and try to find their way through the jungle to the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. Along the way, too, Emily wishes her mother would stop insulting her for once and Linda wishes Emily would finally grow up. Maybe this will be the trip they needed to reconnect.

With the efforts of director Jonathan Levine (2015’s “The Night Before”) and screenwriter Katie Dippold (2016’s “Ghostbusters”), “Snatched” generally finds a smooth balance between a mismatched mother-daughter relationship, a palatable kidnapping farce in a foreign land, and Amy Schumer’s brand of raunchy, outspoken humor. On the page, Dippold’s script builds a believable enough foundation with Emily and Linda’s relationship, but Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn are really the ones to ensure that their bond strikes a genuinely sweet and sincerely felt note. When Emily and Linda do spar and hash things out, even while they’re traipsing through the jungle and trying to stay alive, it doesn’t seem too disingenuous. It also helps that Linda is pretty knowing that they need to save the apologies and touch-feely stuff for later once they get out of peril. Although in reaching for an arc, Emily's redemption just kind of happens, as if a few key scenes making that transition more organic were axed for the sake of momentum. The particulars of the kidnapping chase-thriller plot are inconsequential, too, but director Levine finds the proper comic timing without the long-winded shagginess of overt ad-libbing that dominates a lot of contemporary comedies. He keeps the pacing breezy, averts expectations here and there by putting sneakily fresh spins on seemingly familiar joke setups, and lets planted gags pay off later instead of just making them throwaways (for instance, a dog whistle that Linda gives to Emily as a rape whistle follows the rule of Chekhov’s Gun).

In spite of Emily’s selfish nature and propensity to share everything on social media, Schumer is never less than a blowsy, fearless comedic force; in fact, this will be known as the movie where she gives herself a makeshift douche just as the restroom door swings open with her love interest getting an eyeful. The moments where Schumer has to emote are less convincing compared to the surprisingly natural range and thespian instincts the stand-up comedian impressively displayed in her breakout starring role in 2015’s “Trainwreck,” but she and her screen partner seem to bring out the best in one another. Making a delightful return to form as overly cautious mother Linda, Hawn is effervescent, as if no time has passed. Even if one wishes her individual comedic talents were tested more—she does get a good spit take after a “welcome” greeting that sounds like something else—Hawn is still such a bright screen presence that one misses the days when the perky comedy star was making movies more regularly. After all these years, she is still an adept comedian, never overplaying Linda or making her a caricature, and brings intelligence and wistfulness to a maternal character who’s never once treated as an annoying nag. Together, Emily and Linda will inevitably meet in the middle, the former learning a little responsibility and the latter venturing outside of her comfort zone. 

Beat for beat, Schumer and Hawn’s appealing chemistry is a match, and “Snatched” fires on all cylinders when it lets them be a duo. Although this is predominantly a two-person show, there is also no shortage of zany second bananas threatening to steal the attention off of its leads. Ike Barinholtz is endearingly oddball as mama's boy Jeffrey who tries to help his mother and sister from home and shares a testy, increasingly amusing on-the-phone dynamic with a fed-up State Department agent (Bashir Salahuddin). Practically off in his own movie, Christopher Meloni is a hilariously weird hoot as an American adventurer who helps Emily and Linda and serves as their Indiana Jones wannabe guide, and his backstory holds some off-kilter surprises. Wanda Sykes scores nearly every line reading of hers as Ruth, who’s staying at the same resort as Emily and Linda, while Joan Cusack is inspiredly loopy without even saying a word as Barb, Ruth’s “platonic” ex-Special Ops friend who’s unexpectedly physically nimble and prepared when the situation calls for it. Of the ridiculously silly and situational variety of comedy, Emily has a “nip slip” and accidentally kills a few henchmen, but that doesn’t mean every gag hits the mark. There is a broad, bizarre non-sequitur sequence involving a tapeworm that aims to up the wackiness factor but almost seems to dip into a wild creature feature for a minute. Overall, “Snatched” has no delusions of grandeur or pretensions, amounting to an undeniably enjoyable high-concept jaunt and doing well within those parameters. And, as all comedies should be, it’s 91 minutes and smarter than it is not. It’s nothing more but definitely nothing less.

Grade: B - 

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