Culver City Observer -

MOVIE REVIEW: SNATCHED

 

It's been far too long since Goldie Hawn graced the silver screen which, in and of itself, makes SNATCHED a welcome addition to this weekend's movie-going. But add the direction of Jonathan Levine and comedic antics of Amy Schumer and SNATCHED bodes well for an entertaining few hours of laughter in this mother-daughter caper of epic proportion.

In spite of a lackluster script by Katie Dippold, which often feels like ideas were just thrown against the computer screen and whatever stuck was incorporated into the story, Hawn in particular rises above the woefully absent use of her range of comedic talents within the story structure, and captures not only the eye of the camera and comedic essence of the film, but the audience.

Emily is a train wreck as both an adult and a daughter. Irresponsible, self-centered, vulgar, sloppy, has disgusting hygiene habits, and with no clue about self-sufficiency in life, she is friendless, boyfriendless and the only time she has time for her mother Linda is when she has absolutely nowhere else to turn. Fired from her job, dumped by her rocker boyfriend, and left with two pre-paid, non-refundable tickets to Ecuador for vacation, Emily finds herself doing the unthinkable; going home to Linda.

Divorced, Linda has her own baggage but, unlike her daughter, carries it with grace and tasteful humor. Over-protective almost to a fault, Linda is a relatively normal suburban mom. She has some cats whom she treats like human children, and she has her grown son, the agoraphobic Jeffrey who lives with her. Jeffrey is his own brand of strange. Needless to say, when you get Emily and Jeffrey under the same roof they behave as if they were five-years old while driving their mother crazy.

While Linda loves having Emily come to visit (although Emily insists it's only for a night at most), Emily's self-centered whining, irresponsibility and crudeness drive Linda crazy. On the flip side, Emily hates the care, concern, constructive criticism and life advice her mother has for her.

As with most children, be that youngsters or adults, one seems to forget that their parents - especially mothers - had lives before the kids came along, and Emily is no different. But while rummaging through a closet for clothes to borrow, Emily stumbles upon an old photo album/scrapbook of Linda's. Linda lived! Linda went to concerts. Linda traveled abroad. Linda protested. Linda partied. Linda had fun. And then the light bulb goes off. Linda could be fun again. Linda could go to Ecuador with her, thus not wasting the non-refundable trip tickets.

So, off they go to Ecuador. Mother and daughter. Unfortunately, pitfalls (and pratfalls) begin almost from the time they get off the plane as neither woman speaks the language, the hotel is unable to give them a room with two beds thus suggesting the two sleep "69" - a comment which does not go unnoticed by Linda, thinking she has purchased rape whistles as protection for the two of them it is quickly discovered Linda bought dog whistles instead (but stay tuned, they do come in handy), over-protective mom means slather an entire bottle of sunscreen on your daughter, and so forth and so on.

Adding insult to Emily's injured pride at being with her mom, the two immediately meet Ruth and Barb. Ruth, the talker of the pair, immediately bonds with Linda, agreeing that one can't be too careful in the wilds of Ecuador. Barb is former Special Ops and no longer speaks as she cut out her own tongue to insure she would never divulge any military secrets. But Ruth seems familiar with the region and assures Linda and a half-listening Emily that if they run into any trouble, just give her a call.

Determined not to deal with her Linda or Ruth or Barb, Emily goes out for the night and immediately hooks up with a tall, dark and handsome stranger named James. Bonding through copious amounts of alcohol and a motorcycle trip through the tropics to check out the nightlife, Emily gets all girly and flirty, or at least as girly and flirty as one can get after more than a couple of dozen shots of alcohol, believing she has found the man of her dreams and in a semi-drunken stupor convinces Linda to go with them to explore the next day.

That's when the script and the film somewhat derail with a kidnapping plot in which James is in cahoots with a group of "bad hombres" led by a man named Morgado, with Linda and Emily as his latest conquests. Once taken hostage and waking up in Colombia, the hijinks really begin for Emily and Linda with Linda being the practical one and Emily just freaking out to the point you want to reach through the movie screen and slap her silly. With an escape, a wild chase, an encounter with an Indiana Jones wannabe, it's one non-stop gag after another with some soft hits and near misses. In the meantime back in the United States, Morgado has called Jeffrey demanding ransom who in turn has called the State Department for assistance, only to be repeatedly hung-up on and turned away, opening the door for some laughs with the agoraphobic Jeffrey venturing into the world to save his "Ma-Ma" and sister.

Amy Schumer maintains her patented cringe-worthy style of comedy but takes it to an almost cartoonish level with SNATCHED which leads the audience in one of two directions - either you like Schumer's performance here or you don't. There is no middle ground. And sadly, there is no depth.

Goldie Hawn on the other hand is still magic and still master of her patented version of screwball comedy. She gives Linda a wisdom that still has its roots in innocence, much like her character in "Protocol". Whether she's over-indulging her children or her cats or being the lioness protecting her daughter from Colombian kidnappers, every minute Hawn is onscreen, one is wishing she was their mom. And she's fun!

Indisputable is the chemistry between Hawn and Schumer. They play like yin and yang.

Wanda Sykes is perhaps the most appropriately utilized among the supporting players and is a standout as Ruth while Joan Cusack effectively relies on quirky facial expressiveness and physical nuance to portray Joan. As our wannabe Indiana Jones, Christopher Meloni is pure fun and adds a touch of "George of the Jungle" to this manly-man adventurer that makes him even more enjoyable, especially when over-emoting and over-enunciating dialogue.

Hotness alert, ladies, as Tom Bateman enters the fray as James. From seductive to crying silliness, Bateman shows an emotional and physical range of performance. Although thanks to make-up and hair extension to provide a stereotypical look, Oscar Jaenada is his menacing best as Morgado. But beware, he has a few stand-out comedy turns as well.

Not to be overlooked are Ike Barinholtz and Bashir Salahuddin as Jeffrey and State Department Agent Morgan Russell, respectively. Barinholtz and Salahuddin would make a perfect buddy cop comedy pairing. There is a fluidity in their feeding from each other that is welcoming and funny.

As mentioned, screenwriter Dippold appears to have aimed for the lowest common denominator for comedy with the script delivered. The overall premise is funny and bodes for great potential. Unfortunately, the under-developed and often stereotypical slapstick bits, the failure to make the most of Goldie Hawn's talents and develop Linda more and with better material, plus Amy Schumer's over-used self-deprecating comedy tends to drag the film down, despite Jonathan Levine's best efforts to energize and entertain. It's a testament to Levine's skills as a director, and Goldie Hawn's comedic abilities, that the visual conception rises above the script at hand to make the film as watchable and as entertaining as it is.

Levine uses strong comedic visual set-ups to set up the laughs for the generational gap at play, e.g., Linda may be on Facebook, but has no clue that everything she posts is public which, if Emily had any friends even looking at her FB page, could prove embarrassing. A strategy learned from protests of the 60's, let the body "go limp" when being arrested or carried away, is put into play by Goldie Hawn's Linda when the kidnappers are attempting to transport the women while Schumer's Emily is kicking, screaming and flailing, leads to some true hilarity, as do some rather unfortunate incidents involving Morgado's men and Emily.

Levine also knows how to make a movie ebb and flow and does his level best here to do just that thanks to editors Zene Baker and Melissa Bretherton who don't allow the film to get bogged down in the sometimes sub-standard script. Already showing us his knack for a more sophisticated comedy with "The Wackness" and a more tender side of comedy with "Warm Bodies", Levine also proves adept at broader slapstick which is aided by Florian Ballhaus' beautiful cinematography where Hawaii is doubling for the Amazon, thus giving the film a much more expensive and elegant look.

You don't need a trip to Ecuador or kidnapping to Colombia to snatch yourself a few laughs and a few hours with mom this Mother's Day. Just hit the theatre for some light laughs with SNATCHED.

Directed by Jonathan Levine

Written by Katie Dippold

Cast: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack, Christopher Meloni, Ike Barinholtz, Tom Bateman

 

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