If laughter is the best medicine, Snatched is a placebo. The latest film from director Jonathan Levine takes a good idea for a comedy – that is to say, putting Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer on screen together – and feigns in the general direction of wackiness, eliciting semi-regular chuckles because the situations are clearly broad and the stars have obvious talent. It’s funny because it looks like it’s supposed to be funny, and depending on what kind of mood you’re in that might be enough to get you through the evening.
Amy Schumer stars as Emily, a self-absorbed woman with non-refundable vacation tickets to Ecuador and nobody to go with. Emily loses her job and her boyfriend in the prologue and swiftly discovers that no one gives a damn about her except for her mother, Linda, played by Goldie Hawn, a shut-in who has the repeated audacity to remind Emily she could be a better person. Soon they’re in Ecuador together, eventually they get kidnapped, and then they murder one of their captors and flee through the jungle, sniping all the way.
Snatched is the sort of film that probably plays better if you’ve never seen better movies, which I’ll happily admit is the sort of statement you could make about just about any film. But here in particular the shadow of Romancing the Stone falls over just about every scene. Changing the dynamic of our mismatched adventurers goes a long way towards turning Snatched into a watchable reinterpretation, but all the other comparisons to Robert Zemeckis’s classic comedy about city slickers in the jungle, trying to foil a kidnapping plot, leave Jonathan Levine’s film wanting.
For one thing, Romancing the Stone moves like a shark, while Snatched suffers from the same narrative looseness that has infected so many contemporary comedies. Rambling character interactions take precedent over the plot, which would be fine if the film didn’t have much plot to speak of, but Snatched is a directional narrative, a high-concept chase film that races from one comic set piece to another. It’s a format that Jonathan Levine handled more effectively in his Christmas comedy The Night Before, a rollicking comic spree with energy to spare. If only some of that energy had gone into Snatched, a film that, as it stands, probably would have been equally effective if the protagonists had themselves a staycation and just talked to each other for a few days.
But – and this is very important – Snatched isn’t terrible, and it’s not particularly bad either. It’s just a lazy afternoon at the movies, a genial, occasionally funny comedy that briefly distracts from our horrible everyday lives. Snatched gets the job done without being particularly good at it, relying on a decent concept, high-voltage star power and briefly amusing set pieces to make you smirk. But it could great characters, skilled pacing and smart situations to make you laugh your ass off.
Top Photo: 20th Century Fox
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.