Friday, May 12, 2017

'Snatched' Proves That A Terrible Movie Can Still Make You Laugh



This review originally appeared on SFist.com.

I'm going to be completely honest here: Amy Schumer's new comedy Snatched made me laugh a lot, and for some, that will be enough.

But it's also possible for a comedy to both make you laugh, and be terrible at the same time. After all, there are some things most people just can't help but laugh at, quality humor or not. For me, it's usually slapstick; for others, it might be someone making a fool of themselves. And while Snatched has plenty of both, it also has a central plot that can be viewed as racist at worst, and just profoundly badly timed at best.

Schumer plays a character not unlike the many she's played on her TV show Inside Amy Schumer, and her previous film Trainwreck. Emily Middleton is a completely self-absorbed, occasionally delusional, but ultimately lovable loser who, within the first ten minutes of the film, is fired from her job and dumped by her boyfriend, right before they were to go on vacation in Ecuador.

So Emily convinces her mother Linda (Goldie Hawn) to come along on the non-refundable trip instead. And while Linda is most comfortable at home with her cats and her agoraphobic middle-aged son — Emily's brother Jefferey (Ike Barinholtz) — she gives in, despite tremendous misgivings about the location and its potential dangers.

Needless to say, as the movie title, previews, and poster make abundantly clear, the two women are snatched, and held for ransom by a Colombian gang headed by a notorious crime lord named Morgado (Oscar Jaenada). It isn't long before the women break free, and must somehow make their way to through the Colombian jungle to Bogota and the American consulate, with Morgado on their tail.

This is Goldie Hawn's first movie in 15 years, and I went into it hoping she'd be given the opportunity to be as abrasively funny as Schumer often is. Alas, for the most part she's relegated to the straight role. Still, she's talented enough to make the stiff stuff funny, even when she's supposed to be the cool and collected one. A scene where she tries to calm herself by to reading the only available thing in their jail cell — a porn mag — is a highlight.

Also adding considerable laughs are supporting players Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack, as Ruth and Barb, two "platonic friends' on vacation at the same high-end resort. Ruth does all the talking because Barb, a former member of "special ops," cut out her own tongue after retirement to thwart any possible attempts by foreign agents to torture her and force her to spill secrets. Emily points out she could still be tortured and just forced to write stuff down, but Ruth chooses to ignore this observation.

Snatched was written by Katie Dippold, who also wrote several Melissa McCarthy vehicles, including the Ghostbusters reboot, and is directed by 50/50 and Warm Bodies director Jonathan Levine, and there's an odd, almost surreal quality to much of the movie. It's not just that none of Emily and Linda's situation seems remotely realistic (if it was realistic, it probably wouldn't be funny since they'd likely both be dead before the movie was even halfway through), it's that scenes will end and then abruptly transition to the next, with no real sense of how they got where they are, let alone how they got there alive. Once we get to the point where a tapeworm is coaxed out of Emily's mouth with a dangling piece of raw meat, I was expecting someone to wake up and reveal the whole thing was just a dream.

It almost feels like the surreality is a conscious attempt by the makers to try and absolve themselves of any accusations of racism or cultural insensitivity. Because, if everything else in the film is completely unrealistic, maybe you can overlook the bad timing inherent in a movie whose central villains are literally "bad hombres."

Now, I don't think Schumer, the writer, or the director are being intentionally racist at any point in Snatched. But they are being unpleasantly tone-deaf — something Schumer is not unfamiliar with — to much of the film's characterization of South America and its residents. And too often, they try to mask this by making a joke about the appearance of racism, in a "I'm not being racist, I'm making fun of racism" way.

But having to repeatedly reinforce that your movie isn't being insensitive by constantly acknowledging that insensitivity, just makes me wonder, wouldn't it be better to just... not do something that could be perceived as insensitive in the first place? Granted, it might not be easy, but really, that leads me to the biggest criticism I have with Snatched: it's lazy.

So while, yes, it is funny in parts, Snatched is ultimately a missed opportunity as a female-led comedy; as a comeback vehicle for Goldie Hawn; and as proof that the first season of Inside Amy Schumer wasn't a fluke, and Schumer is capable of continuing that same smart, uncomfortable, and most importantly, difficult comedy into her movie career.

No comments: